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5 Strange Things That People Do During Sleep - Parasomnias That Would Scare The Crap Out of You

Updated on February 6, 2015

For most people, sleep is a time of rest. They go to bed tired, sleep soundlessly, and then wake up. However, some people suffer from sleep disorders, also known as parasomnias, and they spend the night doing many strange things.

5 Strange Things That People Do While They Think They Are Sleeping

1. Sleepwalking

Sleepwalkers look like they are straight out of a horror movie. Their eyes are open, and technically they can see, but they have blank expressions on their face while they pace back and forth, eat a sandwich, or even clean the house. Episodes can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Sleepwalkers are quite clumsy while they walk and can easily trip over things in their way, or even walk through glass doors. Injury is not uncommon. Worse, sleepwalkers also have the capability to hurt others. They can start a car and drive it in their state, and they can even commit violent crimes such as assault or murder. All of this occurs with no awareness in the moment, or recollection in the morning.

Many people believe that sleepwalking occurs while acting out dreams, but in 1965, scientists discovered that sleepwalking actually occurs outside of REM sleep (when most dreams occur). While sleepwalking is most common in children and disappears into adulthood, but adults are not immune to it. Sleep disorders, stress, worry, alcohol consumption, and certain medical conditions can all contribute to sleepwalking.

Example of a night terror

2. Night Terrors

The best way to give your spouse a heart attack in bed would be to have a night terror, as the scene is scary, to say the least. A person having a night terror will suddenly sit upright in bed and let out a bloodcurdling scream. They will usually be sweating, panicking, and terribly frightening to look at during the episode.

Another weird and scary fact is that a person suffering from a night terror cannot be talked out of it. That means the duration of the night terror, usually under a minute, is unstoppable by anyone in the room. Afterwards, the person often goes straight back to sleep and has no memory of it in the morning, while anyone else in the area is left to shiver under his or her covers for the rest of the night.

The cause for night terrors is unknown. When a person suffering from a night terror recalls an image, it is usually just a still image of something scary, like a monster or animal in a frightening pose, and intense fear may be the reason they occur.

3. Confusion Arousal

A person who is experiencing confusion arousal can be compared to a person who is drunk. They often wake up and do odd things, like talking into a remote as if it were a telephone. They usually make noise consisting of mumbling or moaning, but they do not respond to other people’s voices. Episodes usually last under a minute, but can occur for up to 45 minutes, and they usually result in the person going back to sleep without memory of it in the morning.

Confusion arousal can run in families, and are thought to happen because of an abnormal arousal mechanism. Other causes may be drug or alcohol abuse, sleep deprivation, psychotropic medication use, and being forced to wake up suddenly.

4. REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

During REM sleep, when dreams are likely to occur, most people experience a sort of paralysis that prevents them from acting out their dreams. However, some people lose that paralysis during the night, and they are then free to act out their dreams in a big way. They can kick, scream, punch, and in some cases jump out of bed and onto tables or chairs.

This behavior usually results in relationship problems, or at the very least, separate bedrooms. This is because anyone in bed with someone suffering from this disorder may receive a black eye or bruises before they even know what is going on, because they are also in REM sleep.

This is a disorder generally reserved for people over the age of fifty, but younger people are also susceptible. It can occur in people who suffer a malfunction in the brain stem that inhibits body movement during the night. It can also occur in people who suffer a stroke or dementia.

5. Sleep Eating

If you find that you are gaining weight, even though you are on a diet, then you may be sleep eating. Sleep eaters will get up in the middle of the night to fix themselves a snack, usually a high-calorie snack that they would not eat during the day. Often this results in weird food combinations such as a hot-dog dipped in peanut butter or dog food on top of ice cream. Just as with sleepwalking, a sleep eater cannot be woken up. Many times, a sleep eater will carelessly prepare the food which results in burns and cuts.

The disorder does not result from hunger, as people suffering from it often eat before bed. Instead, certain medications such as Lithium may cause this behavior. Also, other diet disorders or personality disorders may be the trigger for this strange behavior.

So, the next time you wake up because of something as simple as the urge to go to the bathroom, thank your lucky stars that you do not have one of the above sleep disorders. And if you share a bedroom, let your partner know how lucky they are to have you as a bedmate.

Sleep Disorders

Do You Have or Know Of Someone With a Sleep Disorder?

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    • Relationshipc profile imageAUTHOR


      20 months ago from Alberta, Canada

      Gymnastics? Wow. I wouldn't want to be sleeping next to her.

    • Mark Tulin profile image

      Mark Tulin 

      20 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Interesting stuff. Once heard of a woman doing gymnastics in her sleep. Seems that some of these sleep behaviors can be dangerous.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      He has schizophrenia which I don't think help the situation

    • Relationshipc profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      I wouldn't be passive about it. Maybe he should go through a sleep test and see what's happening while he's sleeping.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      My boyfriend wakes up in the middle of the night and look at me like he wants to hurt me, should I be scared that he might? It's like it's not even him in there. It freaks me out so bad I can't for a couple days after it happens

    • Relationshipc profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Me too Sharkye. Thanks for the comment.

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma

      This is a great hub! I have seen people do all of these, and they really will creep you out. The worst is probably the REM sleep behavior disorder, because it can seriously injure the sleeper and anyone close by!

      I am thankful now that either me, nor my partner, has any of these unique habits!

    • idigwebsites profile image


      5 years ago from United States

      I thought sleepwalking is just a fiction, or a joke... but reading your hub, they might be true.

      As if conversing to yourself for a number of minutes while sleeping is weird enough for me -- then there's sleep eating! I have yet to see a documented case myself tho...

      Thanks for sharing. Voted up and interesting. :)

    • Relationshipc profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Thanks for commenting Marlene. They are scary! One thing that I didn't mention is talking in your sleep, while it's not a parasomnia really, it is scary as heck. My best friends husband used to sing in a voice made for a horror movie in his sleep. She could never wake him up so she had to listen to this twisted, childish voice come out of her husband until he stopped. That is a huge fear of mine now!

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      6 years ago from USA

      Yeah, I'd get a bigger bed (the last video). I knew about sleep walking and night terrors, but the other sleep issues are really scary. I suspect there is no cure, other than identifying them and then doing all we can to protect the innocent, like tying ourselves to the bed so we won't hurt anyone. This is serious stuff, and like you said, this stuff scares the crap out of me!

    • Relationshipc profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Thanks for the awesome story Faith,

      It's amazing that you have had so many encounters with parasomnias. I have to say, the brother in law at the door thing is straight out of night of the living dead, and I would have a hard time letting him in (of course I would).

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      6 years ago from southern USA

      This is all very interesting, and I have had some in my family experience a good bit of these. My husband has sleep apnea, and my brother-in-law used to walk in his sleep way back when my husband and I were dating back in the day. It would just scare me to death, as it seemed he was awake when he was not!!! And he was grown when this happened, not a small child. One time my husband to be were just sitting on the couch at his house watching tv late, and we heard a knock on the door. So, we asked through the door who it was, and in a monotone voice, someone replied, "It is (his brother's names), open the door." His brother did not sound at all like himself, and plus we thought he was asleep in the back bedroom! Well, we finally figured out it was his brother and let him in, and the bottom of his pantlegs were wet, as he had been walking through a creek! Strange, to say the least! My son when is was little, would have those night terrors, and it was a terror to us as parents, as you said, you cannot talk them out of it and it just has to go its course. He did not have them for too long of a period of time thankfully. Thanks for the interesting hub. Voted up, awesome, interesting and useful.

      In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • gmmurgirl profile image

      Shan Moore 

      6 years ago from Philippines

      Very interesting! Thanks! Some are scary stuff. Though I am positive I don't any of these since sleep is such a luxury to me.

    • Eric Prado profile image

      Eric Prado 

      6 years ago from Webster, Texas

      Very intriguing and informative hub. I have had night terrors for as long as I can remember. Voted up, interesting, and I will follow.

    • drsohel profile image


      6 years ago from Dhaka, BD

      I've seen person with number 2 and 3 sleep disorder mentioned above. I don't have anyone of the above. Usually I get sound sleep most of the nights. Thanks!!!

    • Relationshipc profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Wow chloelozano! For me, I think it would be scarier to see a kid having terrors like that (especially trying to get away from something so drastically) than an adult. It's too bad you don't remember what you saw. I would really like to get in the minds of people who experience them and see what they see.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      When I was a child I had both night terrors and confusion arousal. I don't remember the night terrors but my mom told me I would wake up screaming and literally trying to climb up the wall like I was trying to get away from someone or something. The stories about my confusion arousal are quite funny in comparison. I apparently tried to go to the bathroom on the living room chair when I was little and would have had my mom not guided me to the bathroom. I also woke up in the bathtub a few times. Thank God I outgrew that!

      Good article! I enjoyed reading it and could relate.

    • Relationshipc profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Thanks Phil :)

    • Relationshipc profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Thanks techygran for the comment.

      I was born by cesarian section, and I have always slept very well. I did sleepwalk as a kid, but I don't any more. I do grind my teeth and talk in my sleep, but I do nothing as extreme as above. You've spiked my curiosity, so I will look into that as well.

    • Philanthropy2012 profile image


      6 years ago from London

      Very interesting, thank you - shared :)

    • techygran profile image


      6 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Hi there Relationshipc-- this is a well-written little piece and I learned some things I didn't know, particularly in terms of the REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder... makes me want to read more. I have read some speculation that children who are born by cesarean section are more apt to have a troubled sleep pattern... now I am curious to see how it ties in with what you have to say. Thank you for sharing this! Voted up, useful and interesting, and shared!


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