- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
Weird Things People do During Sleep
Can People Learn While They Sleep?
About Sleep Problems - Parasomnias
According to WebMD, parasomnias are disorders with our sleep that become disruptive to restful sleeping. These disruptions can include:
- Night terrors
- 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 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
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 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:
- 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
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