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Weird Things People do During Sleep

Updated on August 19, 2016
Austinstar profile image

L. Cargill, B.A., Sam Houston University, Huntsville, TX., has been writing cool and interesting articles for the internet world since 1995.

Can People Learn While They Sleep?

Students frequently fall asleep during class. Sleep Learning - is it possible?
Students frequently fall asleep during class. Sleep Learning - is it possible? | Source

About Sleep Problems - Parasomnias

According to WebMD, parasomnias are disorders with our sleep that become disruptive to restful sleeping. These disruptions can include:

  • Nightmares
  • Night terrors
  • Sleepwalking
  • Confusion on waking
  • Sleep eating
  • Other weird and unusual sleep disturbances

Odd sleep interruptions are not generally dangerous, but cause great problems that interfere with normal and restful sleep. The disorder can be dangerous, especially in children, as sufferers often wander around and hurt themselves in their sleep.

Returning to sleep after a parasomnia can be difficult. Sleep problems can be caused by several things, or combination of things or for no discernible reason at all.

Common reasons for sleep disturbances are illness, anxiety, bereavement or medications. If sleep disturbances occur more frequently than once per week or if parasomnias are interfering with your normal sleep, seek help from a qualified sleep therapist or doctor.

Sex While Sleeping, Sexsomnia

One of the most unusual parasomnia is engaging in sex while being fully asleep. This disorder is frequent enough to have it's own name - sexsomnia.

This often happens during times of stress, maybe while trying to deal with too many daily stressors. It may be caused by being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, most notably, the "date rape" drug, rohypnol.

"It is instinctive behavior, people are not conscious at the time," according to Idzikowski (BBC News Magazine)

There is help available for this type of sleep disorder and embarrassment should not be an excuse for not getting that help.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep disorder. It is not a parasomnia, but it can bring on parasomnias. Sleep apnea is a condition of the body that results in a cessation of breathing during sleep. The sleeper may be very relaxed and various factors begin to affect the sleepers airway.

When the airway is blocked (apnea), the sleeper cannot breath. After a few seconds or minutes, the sleeper will awake with an urge to breathe. They often snore (loudly), the airway closes and then they awake with a gasping sound trying to get air.

This cycle repeats itself over and over during the sleep period and the sleeper is not even aware of the condition. In severe cases, the cycle happens over 100 times. A person with sleep apnea will be tired all of the time because they never get proper rest during the night.

Other parasomnias can occur because of sleep apnea. Sleepwalking, sleep eating and drinking, frequent trips to the bathroom while sleeping and other unusual behaviors. If you or your loved one suspects sleep apnea, it is vital to get a sleep study done and then sleep with a Continuous Positive Air Pressure apparatus (CPAP) which will keep the airway open during the night. This may actually save your life.

CPAP Machine and Mask

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine and mask.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine and mask. | Source

Sleep Texting, Talking and Walking

Should you fall asleep with your smart phone in your hand, which includes a lot of us, you may actually continue to text after you fall asleep. If you are speaking to someone, you may continue to speak even if you are sleeping.

Somnambulism, is the term for sleepwalking. This is a true parasomnia which tends to happen in deep, non-REM sleep. It is often the culprit in children ages five to twelve years old. It may also be a symptom of "brain syndrome" in the elderly. The act of sleepwalking can last for a few seconds, a few minutes or 30 minutes or longer.

Alcohol, sedatives, medical conditions, seizures and mental disorders can affect sleepwalking. It can also occur because of stress.

Symptoms of Sleepwalking

People who are sleepwalking may sit up and appear to be awake. They may engage in complex activities. After the episode, they may go back to sleep, although it may be in an unusual area like the sofa. Look for:

  • acting confused upon awakening
  • blank looks
  • not remembering the episode
  • aggressive behavior if someone tries to wake them
  • talking and walking even while being in a deep sleep

Eating While Sleeping

One of the weird side effects of Ambien®, is finding food wrappers in your kitchen the next morning. This drug is used to treat insomnia and is a sedative as well as an hypnotic agent. While taking this sleep aid people have been known to eat, talk and even drive while sleeping.

Ambien may also cause severe allergic reactions. It impairs your reaction time and clouds your thinking. The drug may be habit forming. If you are not in a safe place to sleep undisturbed for eight or more hours, amnesia may occur if you are awakened during the sleep cycle. Being forcibly awakened can bring on aggressive behavior.

Weird Sleep Sensations

A sensation called "exploding head syndrome" happens to some people during sleep. People have reported sudden and extremely loud noises coming from inside their head during sleep. They say it is like "a bomb going off".

Sometimes the noise is described as an explosion, thunder or a gun shot. It is painless, but leaves the sufferer terribly confused as to what just happened. After a surgery, one person felt as if a helicopter had landed on the roof accompanied by loud noises and bright flashing lights.

Exploding head syndrome is a result of the same kind of phenomenon that causes people to feel as if they are falling while drifting off to sleep. It can be distressing, but it is usually not harmful and tends to be temporary. The condition is treatable if need be.

Night Terrors

Night terrors typically affect children aged three to twelve years old, but can affect adults as well. This is the period of time when children want to sleep with their parents or with a night light because "there is a monster under the bed" or in the closet.

Night terrors may begin approximately an hour and a half (90 minutes) after falling asleep. Sufferers report episodes of crying and fear. Some causes of night terrors include:

  • stress
  • fever
  • sleep deprivation
  • drugs affecting the central nervous system
  • after affects of anesthesia given during a recent surgery

Night terrors generally resolve themselves on their own and as frightening as this parasomnia appears to be, it is not usually dangerous. Children do not usually remember this type of dream and it lasts for a short period of time. If night terrors occur more than a few times per month, it is time to seek help from a pediatrician or a sleep specialist.

Other Symptoms of Night Terrors

During an episode of 'sleep terrors', people may also experience:

  • increased heart rate
  • increased breathing rate
  • sweating

How to Get Help for Sleep Problems

Talk to your doctor if you experience sleep problems. They can refer you to a sleep specialist who may be able to treat parasomnias with success.

It is vitally important to your body that you get restorative sleep every night. Sleep deprivation is very disruptive to a normal and productive life. The longer you go without sleeping means the more affected you may become by parasomnias and other health problems.

It is not wise to awaken people during a parasomnia. Instead, inform your house mates to speak softly and gently guide you back to bed. Inform your doctor of any and all sleep problems.

What are Parasomnias?

© 2012 Lela

Comments - What is the weirdest thing you have heard of that people do during sleep?

Submit a Comment
  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    20 months ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Hi GR! I woke up once thinking there was a giant scorpion under my bed. I couldn't bring myself to get up until I fully woke up out of that nightmare!

    I think it's called night terrors. For sure it is terrifying. Thanks for the kind words!

  • profile image


    20 months ago

    Well, there is one strange thing that happened to me. It was a scary dream, I think, and I woke up crying but still paralyzed. It was so strange...I was frozen the whole time, but the dream was very vague...

    Nice Hub, tho!

  • misslong123 profile image

    Michele Kelsey 

    5 years ago from Edmond, Oklahoma

    You are so right about sleeping pills. They can be very dangerous. If someone has insomnia and must take a sleeping pill and lives alone, sleep walking or sex while sleeping or anything would be scary and dangerous! Who knows what a person could do? Yikes! Great job of covering this topic. It's a little scary to think of the possibilities.

  • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

    Claudia Mitchell 

    6 years ago

    Fascinating hub! I have heard of sleepwalking and sleep apnea, but not the others. Up and interesting!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Thanks Mary, I like the idea of having a bell on the door just for general purposes :-)

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 

    6 years ago from New York

    I'm afraid to go to sleep now ;) Seriously, that's a lot of problems. I had a daughter who walked in her sleep as a child. We had to put a bell on the front door so we'd here it open...she once walked out the front door and was walking down the street in the middle of the night!

    I sometimes hear my own heart beating in my ear (and can almost feel it in my ear) when I'm in bed just before sleep, it's a condition with a name (but I forget) it can be corrected with surgery but I figure I can live with it. Well, now that you've heard half my family's history, let's get back to your very thought provoking hub.

    Voted up, useful, and interesting.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Maybe it's your brain powering down?

  • Manna in the wild profile image

    Manna in the wild 

    6 years ago from Australia

    Sometimes, when drifting off to sleep, I hear a little 'proing' or 'ping' or 'bzzzt'. Apparently that's quite common.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    The one I didn't know about was 'exploding head syndrome'. If I hadn't experienced it myself, I would not have believed it.

  • Manna in the wild profile image

    Manna in the wild 

    6 years ago from Australia

    Nice collection here. Some I had not known about.

  • Monis Mas profile image


    6 years ago

    Thanks a lot!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Try some yoga or meditation before going to sleep. Don't drink caffeine within 8 hours before bedtime. Practice taking calm deep breaths and blowing out the stress. I hope you get better!

  • Monis Mas profile image


    6 years ago

    What an interesting article. I get really awful nightmares, sometimes every night, sometimes, right after I close my eyes. There were time when I was afraid to shut my eyes, because I knew something horrible was coming... And then everything goes away for a while. I guess it is all stress related. Thank you for a very informative hub. Voted up and awesome!

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    6 years ago from Washington

    Interesting theory~ Being at the tail end myself...I vote this idea up and awesome!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    definitely not fair! We should be able to retire in our 20's and 30's, then go to work after 60 or 65. It's Bassackwards!

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    6 years ago from Washington

    Ha--indeed--lucky for me eating chocolate is not an option since I'm allergic but other things, not so much~ It seems to get tougher the older we get too--not fair~

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    I like your idea of 'note to self'. It's amazing what we can tell ourselves to do. Now if only I would actually listen to myself when I say, "you don't need to eat that chocolate!"

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    6 years ago from Washington

    Wow Lela--amazing info and I'm glad I don't take Ambien~ Just what I need...more calories! I also hope if I get an attack of sexsomnia it's with Bob and not someone else~

    Truly though a lot of these I've never heard of either--very useful info and hopefully since I'm so tired when I finally fall asleep, I won't experience them though I do have my share of nightmares and weird dreams. However, for some odd reason, I'm usually able to rouse myself from them most of the time with the "note to self"--this is just a dream--wake up NOW.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Whoa! I had no idea someone would drink paint! That's serious stuff. Also I figured that sexsomnia would affect women, not men. I mean, some women would prefer to sleep through sex, right?

    My ex could easily drive while sleeping. It was the damdest thing. If we went on a trip, he would definitely fall asleep at the wheel and continue to drive normally. Scary stuff.

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 

    6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Awesome Lela! I am so glad you touched on all those things. I love sleep and I've tried to write about it but it reminds me too much of being at work. I can never seem to finish them.

    You brought up some of the cool stuff (sorry for those who are afflicted ima a sleep geek)

    Sex while sleeping is becoming a more admitted parasomnia I should say. I have actually known someone who was married to a man that had this. Now we might all laugh and think its funny but it can cause serious problems for a man who almost rapes a female while sleeping and not realizing it. Ill say no more but I'm speaking on a professional, scientific level not just joking. So I can see where it could be a nightmare I don't mean to offend anyone.

    Sleep eating is also one of the ones I was seriously interested in and have be involved in diagnosing cases - I've seen it up close. People really get in some dangerous situations...I honor all ethical codes of patient confidentiality even though I don't work in the field...but I can say I knew of a patient who drank PAINT for goodness sakes! The sleeping mind may not differentiate between real and imaginary! She was dreaming it was ice cream....oh my!

    Sorry to gab but I love this topic and love reading about it:). Excellent job!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Perhaps they should make chocolate flavored Ambien?

    How old is your grandson? pstraubie? sheesh to be young and need a CPAP already. That's sad. But it may save his life, so keep up the good work!

    It took me a long time to learn to sleep with a CPAP, but now I cannot sleep without it. I would still wake up every 30 minutes or so to go pee, but in reality, I was waking up to breathe.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    6 years ago from south Florida

    Thank you, Lela, for this educational treatise on sleep interruptions. I was not aware of that side effect of Ambien which may cause some people to eat while sleeping. For me, it's hard enough to stay away from too much chocolate while awake. So you know I'll stay away from Ambien while sleeping. Promise.

  • pstraubie48 profile image

    Patricia Scott 

    6 years ago from sunny Florida

    I have family members who have told of several of these nighttime or I should say, sleeptime, experiences. My grandson on top of that has sleep apnea and has a CPAP machine to help with it.

    This is interesting and informative.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Don't you feel like you can now sleep like a baby? :-)

  • carol7777 profile image

    carol stanley 

    6 years ago from Arizona

    I never heard of half of these. Most interesting and yet a little scary. Thanks for bringing this out in a most informative hub.


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