A new study has found that patients with obstructive sleep apnea are likely to experience "parasomnia" symptoms - sleepwalking, hallucinations and acting out their dreams.
Researchers at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine examined records of 537 adult sleep apnea patients.
Fifty-one patients, or 9.5 percent of the total, reported one or more types of parasomnia symptoms.
Parasomnia complaints included sleep paralysis (21 patients), sleep-related hallucinations (16 patients), acting out dreams (11 patients), sleepwalking (5 patients) and eating while asleep (one patient).
Results were reported at Sleep 2009, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, held this year in Seattle.
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a partial or complete blockage of the airway. Each time this happens, the brain becomes aroused, in order to resume breathing. This is disruptive to sleep, and the patient can feel chronically tired during the day.
The study suggests that apnea also is linked to increased parasomnia symptoms.
Parasomnia disorders include sleep paralysis (brief episodes of being unable to move), hallucinations during the state between waking and sleeping, acting-out dreams (punching, kicking, crying out, etc.) and walking, eating or even driving while asleep.
Because it interrupts sleep, apnea can set a person up for parasomnia, said Dr. Nidhi S. Undevia, principal investigator of the study.
"If you have a predisposition to parasomnia, apnea could make it worse," Undevia said.