Sleep disorders can be more than insomnia or sleepwalking, as these three shocking sleep phenomena show.
Most Americans are familiar with sleep disorders and the immense negative effects they can have on one’s life. However, few people are aware of how bizarre and even tragic some sleep behaviors can be. The following sleep phenomena are only three of the many rare conditions that affect sleep cycles and patterns.
Exploding Head Syndrome: Things That Go Crash in the Night
Exploding head syndrome sounds like the subject of a Ripley’s Believe It or Not exhibit, but this disease actually exists. However, don’t let the name scare you. No heads explode in this rare sleep disorder; rather, people experience the sensation of a loud noise or bright flashes of light as they fall into deep sleep.
These loud noises can be very frightening because the sufferer perceives them as being real and may think there has been an explosion or gun shot in their home. However, this syndrome has no negative effects except for those caused by the accompanying anxiety such as increased heart rate. People who have it may be young, old or anywhere in between; episodes may happen every night or only rarely. Researchers have no idea what causes the syndrome, although it is postulated to be a form of temporal lobe epilepsy and the only effective treatment is the tricyclic antidepressant clomipramine.
Sleep Texting: An Embarrassing and Real Disorder
Most people in this modern age are familiar with the dangers of drunk texting, but sleep texting can be just as problematic. While fast asleep, sufferers of this syndrome will text people on their mobile device. Because they are asleep, with the centers of the brain associated with self-control in hibernation, they may send texts to the wrong person or say things that they normally wouldn’t. Although this may sound like a crazy excuse for sending a regretted text, sleep texting is a very real parasomnia just like sleep walking and bedwetting.
While no one will physically harm themselves while sleep texting, the potential for psychological harm is real. Imagine waking to find you have sent a rude or embarrassing text to your employer; these texts can have a real impact on your waking life. There is no medical remedy for this disorder, although people who suffer from it can benefit by downloading an app meant to prevent drunk texting. This may prevent their sleepy self from texting the wrong person at the wrong time.
Sexsomnia: A Sleep Disorder with Dire Consequences
Human sexuality does not turn off in one’s sleep; most people have had nocturnal emissions, sexual dreams or other instances of sexual thoughts and even behaviors while sleeping. However, some people may actually act on these thoughts and feelings even while fast asleep, a disorder known as sexsomnia.
The behaviors associated with sexsomnia may be anywhere from innocent to illegal. Some people masturbate while asleep, while others may actually sexually assault people in their home while still sleeping. This sleep behavior can have very unpleasant emotional and even legal consequences.
What causes sexsomnia? For some people, it is actually a kind of seizure. For others, it is part of a syndrome called confusional arousal, in which a person’s sleep is disturbed enough for them to physically act while their mind remains fast asleep. People who suffer from sexsomnia usually do not even remember the events, so they may be surprised when there are consequences. This disorder may be exacerbated by sleep deprivation, substance abuse and other disorders that can interfere with restful sleep. Researchers currently treat this disorder with a combination of anticonvulsants and lifestyle changes.
While 40 million people in the United States suffer from some type of chronic sleep disorder, most of these disorders are not nearly as rare and interesting as these three sleep phenomena. The processes that occur in the human brain during sleep are complex and even the smallest changes in brain activity can result in manifestations and sleep disorders that range in severity.