WELLNESS
01/27/2012 05:48 pm ET

5 Tips For Battling Sleepy Hallucinations

Sleepy hallucinations are a common sleep disorder which usually affects children and teens. We spoke to Roxanne Valentino, M.D., medical director of the St. Thomas Center for Sleep in Nashville, Tennessee, for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.

If you think you might have sleepy hallucinations, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Shellie Braeuner

Sleepy hallucinations are a form of parasomnia where the sleeper confuses the dream state for the real world. You may even see images upon waking, when you don't remember dreaming. "Sleep walking, talking, even bedwetting are all related," says Dr. Valentino. Sleepy hallucinations have a wide range of causes including "fever, emotional issues or medication."

Keep The Sleeper Safe

"If a child acts out while sleeping, parents need to take action," cautions Dr. Valentino. Young children, especially, may be very frightened by these images; they may struggle, rise or even walk to get away from what they dreaming. "Make sure that the child's bedroom window is securely closed," she says. "If your child walks in her sleep, put a warning buzzer on the child's door. The sound will alert you if your child leaves her bedroom."

Get A Check-Up

Once a doctor has ruled out any physical causes, look for situations that precede a sleepy hallucination. "Fevers, alcohol abuse, worry, sadness, stress," says Dr. Valentino. "These can all cause any type of parasomnia."

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

According to Dr. Valentino, "Sleep hygiene just means good sleep habits. Keep your bed for sleeping. Create a sleep routine that is relaxing and predictable. All these actions teach your body when it is time to sleep." In addition, patients should stay away from the television and computer screens for at least an hour before bed. "Screen time," she says, "stimulates the brain at the very time we want our brain to relax."

Relax

"Most children grow out of parasomnia," says Dr. Valentino. "There is no correlation between parasomnia and other disorders." However, she suggests that if you or your child are disturbed in any way, you should see a sleep specialist. "In short, there is no reason for anyone to suffer."

Get Enough Sleep

"Exhaustion plays a part in this disorder," says Dr. Valentino. "Be sure to set aside enough time to relax and get enough sleep. Set regular bedtimes and regular times for waking."

Roxanne Valentino, M.D., earned her medical degree from the Ohio State University. She completed her residency at the Cleveland Clinic followed by a fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic specializing in sleep medicine and neurophysiology. Dr. Valentino is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Sleep Medicine and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in clinical neurophysiology.

Have you ever had a sleep disorder?