While many of us can’t wait to shut our eyes at the end of the day, the thought of sleeping is overwhelmingly terrifying to others. It is natural and healthy for our bodies to go into rest mode. It is how we are designed to recuperate each day and we cannot function without it. However, when you think about the process of sleeping: Your senses active, yet your brain in “active rest” mode; unable to process information while you’re much less in control of your surroundings than if you were awake. It can be unsettling. It was Edgar Allen Poe that said, “Sleep, those little slices of death, how I loathe them.”—and it is while sleeping, that some act in ways that are completely uncharacteristic of who they are during waking hours.
“You know you’re awake and you want to move… but you just can’t.”
It is estimated that 7.6 % of the population suffers with this disorder that makes it feel like you can’t move or speak, even though you are awake.
Sleeping paralysis prevents you from moving sometimes for several minutes while going to sleep or waking up, and is often accompanied by terrifying hallucinations (such as an intruder or apparition in the room) to which you are unable to react due to paralysis. While the direct cause is unknown, sleeping paralysis is also commonly linked to other disorders such as narcolepsy, migraines, anxiety disorders, and obstructive sleep apnea.
During an episode, individuals are advised to try and calm themselves; realize it is only temporary and it will soon pass. Also, try to avoid laying on your back as it mostly occurs in this position, understanding this coping mechanism really only works if you’ve experienced it before.
A familiar image comes to mind when we think of Sleep Walkers: The person gets out of bed, then walks around with arms outstretched in zombie-like fashion. This does not happen. In fact, many navigate their rooms with ease, and are capable of opening doors and moving furniture. Sleep Walkers may walk, talk or even drive a car. They may seem comfortable with where they are walking and take confident steps towards the direction they are heading. But they are asleep, and while it does not pose extreme harm to Sleep Walker psychologically or physically if you wake them while walking, they are not awake and may perceive they are being attacked and act out accordingly.
The cause is still unknown, however stress and disturbed sleep are often factors. So is genetics: Close relatives of sleepwalkers are 10 times more likely to sleepwalk than the general population. Sleepwalking is common in children and is usually outgrown over time, especially as the amount of deep sleep decreases. If symptoms persist through adolescence, consult your doctor or psychiatrist.
Also, sleep deprivation often contributes to sleepwalking. Increasing the amount of time scheduled for sleep can be helpful. Other possible triggers for sleepwalking include alcohol and certain medications, so be sure to check with your physician. Experts suggest developing a regular, relaxing routine before bedtime to cope with sleepwalking.
Exploding Head Syndrome
Sufferers of Exploding Head Syndrome (or EHS), experience auditory hallucinations. They hear “phantom” loud banging or explosives going off right next to them or inside their head as they drift off to sleep. Torturous as it may seem, these individuals are not in immediate danger, however the repeated incidents could make them fearful of going to sleep, resulting in sleep-onset insomnia.
The cause of this disorder is unknown, however medical professionals know that it is not associated with serious illness.
Sleep-Related Eating Disorder
Some of us may claim we don’t remember having that slice of pie or chocolate bar, when the scale or our clothes tell us differently. Others of us are truly unaware of the fridge raid and binge we committed the night before — and that is terrifying.
“People with Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (SRED) partially awaken in the middle of the night in a situation similar to sleepwalking and other sleep disorders, and then start sleep-eating, which normally entails unconsciously eating a large amount of typically unhealthy, high-calorie foods. Unlike NES, during which people remember their nighttime eating, those with SRED may not remember sleep eating or may only partially recall the event in the morning. Many times, when they find their kitchen a mess the next morning, they have no idea how it got that way.” — EveryDayHealth.com
If you suspect that you may suffer from this disorder, consult your physician and possibly participate in a sleep study to monitor your nighttime behaviors.
All of the above is very interesting to read, however it is estimated that about 60 million in the U.S. alone, suffer from sleep disorders ranging from sleepwalking to chronic insomnia or worse. If you or someone you know exhibits some of these symptoms, seek advice from a medical professional on how to cope with these disruptive and potentially harmful disorders.