Sleep is essential in our everyday life. This is the time that our bodies can recover from all the stress that we put it through on a daily basis. It is crucial to our survival. However vital this may be, many people struggle with getting a good night sleep.
A sleep disorder is also known as Somnipathy. It is a medical condition where one’s sleep pattern is so disruptive that it interferes with a person’s normal physical, mental and emotional functioning. There are mentions of sleep disorders going back through time with narcolepsy being documented since the 1600s.
There are many common cases of sleep disorders such as snoring and basic insomnia. But there are also some very bizarre cases as well.
Sleep Paralysis is a condition where the person wakes up during REM sleep and finds their body is effectively paralyzed. Some sufferers also said that they have experienced panic attacks and hallucinations. This phase may last for a few seconds to several minutes. Studies show that the contributing factors to this condition are stress, depression and lack of sleep. The cause of this disorder is unknown and there is also no guaranteed method of preventing it.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder is a condition where the body prevents individual muscles from the normal paralysis that happens during sleep. Because of this, people with this condition will act out their dreams while asleep. They will talk, kick or walk as if they are awake.
There was a documented case in 2008 where a father of two, known to have been suffering from this disorder, was acting out his dreams. In his dream, he was fighting intruders but he was strangling his wife which lead to her death. In this sad case, he was actually acquitted of the crime due to his condition.
People with Exploding Head Syndrome suffer from this disorder often hear loud, imaginary noises when they are at the brink of falling asleep or waking up. The most common descriptions of these noises are slamming doors, crashing cymbals and even bombs going off. This is also accompanied by muscles spasms and flashes of light. This is caused by the sudden burst of neural activity most probably brought by sleep disruption (for example jet lag or temporary insomnia).
Kleine Levin Syndrome (aka Sleeping Beauty Syndrome) usually affects teenage boys. Sufferers would spend up to 23 hours a day asleep and this can continue for several days or weeks in a row. When they are awake, they can have heightened sex drives and hunger. This syndrome can continue for several years, with breaks of a few months in between episodes. There is no known cause that has been documented for this condition. The only possible common factors seem to be that two-thirds of diagnosed patients have suffered from viral infections shortly before their illness began. There is no definitive treatment for this condition although the symptoms appear to be reduced with Lithium which is a mood stabilizer.
Narcolepsy is a disorder where the brain’s ability to regulate an individual sleep-wake cycle is disrupted. Millions of people suffer from this condition. People with mild narcolepsy will have sleep disturbance at night, extreme sleepiness in the morning with notable concentration and memory issues. Extreme narcoleptics, on the other hand, are prone to sleep attacks. They can unexpectedly fall asleep at any time of the day
Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (NS-RED) can affect middle-aged women. They suffer from uncontrollable cravings and go through food binges during night time. They have no control over their habits and they may not remember what had transpired. It has been reported that some people will eat very odd things like cigarette butts, dog food, and unusual sandwiches.
Fatal Familial insomnia has only been observed in 40 families worldwide. It is a rare genetic brain disease and symptoms usually manifest once an individual reaches child-bearing age. The condition begins with several months of struggling to sleep, preceded by weight loss and after a while, sufferers will fall into a state of total mental and physical deterioration. It’s as if one day, the brain suddenly forgets how to sleep. Complications of the condition will often lead to coma and death.
Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome (SADS) can happen to anyone with no or minor prior symptoms. Post mortem reports reveal that sufferers had previously unknown heart conditions that might have caused this to occur. It was first discovered in the 1970s among the people of Hmong tribe in Laos. Doctors had noticed that healthy Hmong men were dying in their sleep with remarkable frequency.
Restless Leg Syndrome is a disorder where there is a strong urge to move one’s leg while sleeping. Sometimes, the arms may also be affected. People with this condition describe it as an unpleasant feeling in the leg area hence the urge to the leg. The feeling happens while sleeping which then causes disruption in sleep. Because of the lack of quality sleep, sufferers may display sleepiness, irritability and a depressed mood during day time.
There have even been reports of people who don’t need sleep. The best example of that is a Vietnamese man named Thai Ngoc. He went without sleep for 33 years with no negative effects. The human body is complex and we all need different levels of sleep and have different sleep patterns. If you’re having trouble sleeping being aware of your symptoms and finding the right solutions can make a major difference in your life.