Wednesday, October 17, 2012

10 Interesting Sleep Disorders

For as long as I can remember, sleep has not been a simple, straightforward experience for me.  Many a breakfast table conversation after a childhood sleepover involved being teased for talking loudly in my sleep -- words and phrases that never seemed to fit with the dreams I remembered having.  I've sleep-walked a couple of times too, according to other people.  I once ran into my parents' bedroom screaming about bears chasing me, though to this date, I cannot recall that experience at all.

Once, I woke up my little sister for school in the middle of the night.  The poor thing, having full faith in her sister's time-telling capabilities, never even thought about looking at the clock.  She had a shower, wore her uniform -- basically went through her entire morning routine -- only to find that no one was at the breakfast table when she was done...and it was dark outside.  I don't remember this at all, though what I DO recall is a very, very angry 7 year old slapping me awake when she realized what the actual time was!

As an adult, I befriended someone named Insomnia.  And other sorts of nasty folks as well...

It's nearly midnight and I'm trying my best to feel sleepy after the long day I had.  I'm not particularly succeeding, as you can see.  While I chat with Insomnia, I thought I'd look up some interesting sleep disorders.  Here are the 10 strangest I could find!

1. Sleep paralysis - When a person who's either falling or sleep or waking up can't move, at least temporarily.  They WANT to move, and they're conscious, they just can't.  And often, this is accompanied by hallucinations.  (I've experienced this one before, a few times. It's pretty scary, actually.  The inability to move when you want to is not a pleasant feeling!)

2. Sleeping Beauty Syndrome - This is also known as Kleine-Levin syndrome.  And it's exactly what it sounds like.  Someone with this can have a sort of sleep attack in which they don't wake up for long periods of time!  They wake only to eat or use the bathroom, and appear to be disoriented when they do.  And, unfortunately, there's no Prince Charming to cure it...

3. Sexsomnia - Yes, you read that right. I thought this was a joke when I read it, but after looking it up I found that it's indeed a real disorder. And it's exactly what it sounds like.  Someone with this disorder engages in sexual acts while asleep, and doesn't even remember what happened, after waking up! A different twist to sleep-walking, eh?

4. Fatal familial insomnia - A person with this very rare genetic disorder doesn't stay alive long after the onset of symptoms, because they eventually lose their ability to fall asleep.  Imagine not ever being able to sleep!  One night of complete insomnia drives me up the walls; I can only imagine what this kind of disorder does to the brain...

5. Nocturnal lagothalmus - I think I'd be spooked if I caught anyone with this disorder asleep, for it's the inability to close one's eyes while sleeping!

6. Narcolepsy - Someone with this disorder can suddenly fall asleep in the middle of, well, anything.  Particularly dangerous when driving or crossing the road!

7. Cataplexy - This is slightly related to Narcolepsy. It involves the sudden loss of muscle control during an emotional trigger, leaving the person temporarily paralyzed on the floor and even asleep.  Even a laugh could set someone off!  

8. Somnambulistic eating - We've covered sleep-walks and sleep-sex, and now it's time for food.  Someone with this disorder raids the fridge in the middle of the night, but totally asleep!

9. Non-24-hour sleep disorder - A disorder that involves a person's body not being able to follow a 24-hour cycle -- perpetual jet lag, if you will.  If their internal clock follows a 28-hour cycle, then they'll sleep four hours later everyday.

10. And last but not the least, is the Exploding Head Syndrome - I chose this mainly because the name sounds cool (well, more like deliciously awful!).  But it's really the simplest of these listed disorders.  Someone who has this hears amplified sounds, sometimes as loud as a bomb would be.  So, a small sound, even the shutting of a door, could sound like an explosion.  Not a pleasant thing to startle awake to, for sure! This seems to be fairly common, at least a diluted version of it.  Many people I've spoken to claim that noises heard when asleep seem to be louder than they actually are.

So, what about you? Do you suffer from any sleep disorders? Have you heard of other interesting ones?

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