Sleep is a pretty amazing thing, but with over 100 different sleeping disorders, some people are not getting the kind of Sleep they want. Most sleeping disorders are ones most of us have heard of: sleep apnea, sleep walking, sleep talking, teeth grinding (bruxism), narcolepsy, and sleep paralysis, just to name a few. There are a fair number of unusual sleeping behaviors and disorders that don’t get as much attention as the more well-known ones, but here are a few more to keep you up at night.
Sleep State Misperception
We have all had those moments when we think we haven’t slept. In fact, you are sure you haven’t slept, but you could be suffering from sleep state misperception, also known as paradoxical insomnia. This term is used for people who underestimate their sleep as being awake and also for those who overestimate their sleep. People who have this disorder may report having very poor sleep or no sleep at all, but an in-lab study can show that their sleeping is within normal standards.
Sleep studies have shown that people are very poor at estimating the amount of sleep they are actually getting. Paradoxical insomnia occurs usually in young and middle-aged males and can cause depression and anxiety. Behavioral treatment such as sleep restriction as well as medications can help with symptoms. Paradoxical insomnia only accounts for about 5 percent of patients who are looking for treatment for their insomnia.
Sleep-Related Painful Erections
While erections are very normal during sleep (and oftentimes very pleasant) there are some men who suffer from very painful erections while sleeping. According to the Principles and Practices of Sleep Medicine, people with this disorder suffer from penile pain during REM sleep and are usually middle-aged or older men. Complaints are usually cited as frequent awakenings with partial or full erections and significant pain despite having a history of normal, painless erections while awake.
Some men suffering from SRPE think it is due to insufficient sexual release, but even if the man is having regular intercourse and masturbating, these excruciatingly painful nightly erections can occur. Continued problems with this disorder can lead to insomnia, anxiety, irritability, and sleepiness. This condition can get worse over time and, although no studies have been conducted about its effectiveness, medication has been shown to relieve symptoms for some patients.
Short And Long Sleepers
The typical adult needs seven to eight hours every night to function during the day. There are some people who need 10 hours or more a night to feel rested, and there are those who need only five hours of sleep a night to feel rested. For those who are long sleepers, they can function on nine hours of sleep during the work day, but they may increase their sleep during the weekend to include 12–15 hours of sleep during the weekend or on holidays.
Studies have shown that people who are long sleepers make up only about 2 percent of the population and are slightly more likely to be male. Long sleepers can have a higher risk of depression and anxiety although there is generally little that is medically wrong with them. People who are short sleepers tend to be male and tend to have normal personalities but can have some hypomanic episodes.
Despite opportunities to get more sleep, people who are short sleepers still maintain their approximate five hours of sleep even on weekends. Short and long sleepers represent the extreme ends of normal sleep behaviors. Both disorders are rare, but they tend to run in families. Studies have shown that people who are short sleepers tend to die earlier than those who are long sleepers, despite physical activity.
Ever laugh so hard or get so scared that you collapse and can’t move? Most people haven’t, but people with cataplexy are familiar with this. If a person with cataplexy experiences a strong emotion, whether it is a happy one like laughing or joy or a negative emotion like anger or fear, they lose muscle tone and can sometimes appear like they have fallen asleep. Laughter has been shown to be the biggest trigger for these attacks.
Cataplectic attacks can vary in severity from minor muscle weakness to total loss of muscle tone causing the person to collapse. Many people who have narcolepsy, excessive sleepiness that sometimes results in sleep attacks, may also suffer from cataplexy. While unable to move, a patient who has narcolepsy with cataplexy may also fall asleep during this time period. Most of these cataplectic attacks last only a few minutes, and it is usually treated with medication.
Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder
We have all gotten up at some point and gotten a midnight snack, but for some people, their midnight snacking is taken to extremes. This disorder is not to be confused with nocturnal eating syndrome (NES) where people binge eat at night. People with nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder, also called NSRED or SRED, are unaware of their sleep eating.
People with NSRED may eat a variety of things such as: sweets, drinks, raw food, spoiled food, glue, wood, and even cigarette butts. People with this disorder also handle foods very messily and have injured themselves through careless cutting of food or opening of cans. Rapid weight gain can happen over short periods of time, and people with NSRED usually suffer from obesity. Medications have been shown to help some with the disorder, but these treatments have not been effective for all people. Some medications, such as Ambien, can induce episodes of SRED, as can life stressors such as divorce and drug abuse.
Rhythmic Movement Disorder
It can be very upsetting for a parent to see their child bang their head into the mattress or headboard as they are trying to go to sleep. Kids who have rhythmic movement disorder, or RMD, may head-bang, rock their bodies, hum, or roll their heads and bodies while they are trying to sleep. Most of the time, they are unaware they are doing this. The rhythmic movement can be seen during periods when the child is awake drifting into drowsiness and can continue or reoccur during deeper stages of sleep.
The movements are usually seen while the child is sleeping on their back or on their belly, but it has been observed when a child is sitting upright. People with RMD can have some form of developmental impairment such as autism. It can occur at any age, but is mostly seen in infants and toddlers and can disappear as a child ages and rarely requires treatment. For those with violent movements, padding the bed or crib can be effective in preventing injury.
Also known as sleep starts or hypnic jerks, these are involuntary jerks, jumps, or falling sensations that occur just as a person is about to fall asleep. The corresponding jerk is enough to cause someone to jolt awake and can sometimes cause the person to have difficulty going back to sleep due to anxiety about having another hypnogogic arousal.
People who have irregular sleep patterns, excessive caffeine use, or who are going through high levels of stress in their lives are more prone to having these sleep starts, but 60–70 percent of people have reported having one. This disorder is very common and usually does not require treatment. It is usually encouraged to try to eliminate stress, caffeine intake, and to get more sleep to help with episodes. Experts still don’t know why people experience sleep starts, but some think it may be a result of evolution. It can also be a result of another underlying sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea.
It can be very scary when you are unable to move. You may feel anxious and afraid. Some people also hallucinate during an episode. They may see, hear or feel things that are not there. They may even think that another person is in the room with them. These hallucinations may also appear without the sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis tends to first appear in the teen years. It then occurs most often when you are in your 20s and 30s. It may continue into your later years. It is not a serious medical risk.
An episode of paralysis may cause you to be unable to speak. It can also make you unable to move your arms and legs, body, and head. You are still able to breathe normally. You are also fully aware of what is happening. An episode can last for seconds or minutes. The episode usually ends on its own. It may also end when someone touches you or speaks to you. Making an intense effort to move can also end an episode. Sleep paralysis may occur only once in your life. It may also happen many times in a year.
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