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Keywords:

  • Epilepsy;
  • Parasomnias;
  • Sleep disorders;
  • Differential diagnosis;
  • Video-polysomnography

Summary

Although parasomnias should be considered benign conditions without a deleterious impact on sleep quality and quantity, especially in children, it is important to recognize and properly diagnose these phenomena. Moreover, parasomnias may be misdiagnosed as epileptic seizures, in particular seizures with a predominant complex motor behavior as seizures occurring in nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy (NFLE), leading to unnecessary and expensive investigations and prolonged and unsuccessful treatment. In this article we describe the clinical and neurophysiologic features of the most common parasomnias, giving the most reliable elements of differential diagnosis between parasomnias and epileptic nocturnal seizures, namely the typical seizures occurring in NFLE. The diagnostic value of history-taking, video-polysomnography, home video recording, and diagnostic scales is discussed. Next we describe the intriguing aspect of the frequent coexistence, in the same family and even in the same patients, of epileptic and parasomniac attacks, giving a common neurophysiologic interpretation. Finally some brief indications to the treatment of parasomnias are suggested.