Although parasomnias can take several forms, a child is typically diagnosed with a NREM sleep arousal disorder when he or she experiences one of the following on a regular basis:
- Sleepwalking (somnambulism), in which the child rises from bed and moves around while still asleep. Individuals who are sleepwalking typically cannot communicate and are awakened only with significant difficulty.
- Night terrors, in which the child awakes abruptly from sleep in a panicked, intensely fearful state, sometimes with a panicked scream.
Individuals who experience sleepwalking or night terrors remember little or nothing of these episodes, including any dreams that may have occurred.
Occasional parasomnias are very common in young children and are often outgrown by middle childhood. Therefore, NREM sleep arousal disorders are diagnosed and treated only when the parasomnias occur repeatedly and cause clinically significant distress or impairment.