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Can J Psychiatry. 1984 Mar;29(2):132-4.

Sleep and violence.


Most violence connected with sleep disorder is assumed to be related to sleep walking. It is less well known that other sleep disorders can also give rise to violence. The role of narcolepsy in car accidents is mentioned. Sleep drunkenness can lead to confusion resulting in violent behaviour especially on forced awakening. This condition is associated to sleep apnea. Primary or central sleep apnea is caused by disorders of the brain stem affecting the respiratory center. Secondary or upper airway sleep apnea can be caused by virtually any condition that results in cessation of the air flow due to occlusion of the upper airway. The author describes one patient who engaged in assaultive behaviour on forced awakening following earlier alcohol consumption. The pathomechanism of violent behaviour generated by a combination of sleep apnea and respiratory pathology is described. The differential diagnosis, prevention and treatment is outlined. The use of polysomnography in diagnosis and the potentially dangerous effects of drugs with respiratory depressing effects is highlighted.

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