10 Unusual Sleep Disordersby Martin Reed Patient Advocate
The bizarre world of parasomnias
Most of us have heard of common sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. However, there is an entire class of sleep disorders known as "parasomnias" that involve unusual behaviors, experiences, and emotions.
Do you wake up feeling confused and disoriented? Perhaps you wake and grab at your glass of water instead of the alarm clock? If so, you may be experiencing confusional arousals, which are thought to affect one in seven people. Also known as sleep drunkenness, this experience tends to occur if you're suddenly woken from a deep sleep.
Sleepwalking is usually more disturbing when you see it happen to others, rather than when you experience it for yourself. Your bed partner may suddenly sit upright, open their eyes, look around the room, get out of bed, then wander off, apparently oblivious to their surroundings.
Night terrors are even more disturbing to witness as they often involve yelling, screaming, and genuine fear and panic. Most people don't remember a bout of sleep terrors, but those in the same house certainly do!
If you have a partner with this sleep disorder, you might just think they've turned into a zombie during the night. Catathrenia is characterized by the sufferer groaning as they exhale when they are asleep.
Possibly one of the scariest sleep disorders to experience for yourself, sleep paralysis involves waking during the night, unable to move. This sense of paralysis can also be accompanied by visions of a person or demon-like figure in your room.
Also known as sexsomnia, this sleep disorder involves engaging in sexual acts while still asleep. Sexsomniacs will typically have no memory of the acts they perform, which may be triggered by bodily contact with a bed partner.
Sleep-related eating disorder
This sleep disorder is characterized by partial awakenings that involve binge eating, often of foods that don’t normally go together. For example, someone with sleep-related eating disorder may eat frozen food, salt sandwiches, or even buttered cigarettes.
Exploding head syndrome
This parasomnia is a type of auditory hallucination; the sufferer imagines hearing a loud noise such as an explosion, which will wake them suddenly during the night. Curiously, the cause of exploding head syndrome isn't known, which makes the disorder even more unusual.
Sleeping beauty syndrome
Officially known as Kleine–Levin syndrome, this extremely rare sleep disorder is characterized by feelings of excessive tiredness and excessive sleep. Sufferers will typically sleep for between 15 and 21 hours and experience unusual cravings and excessive appetite.
Although not a sleep disorder, hypnic jerks (also known as hypnagogic jerks or sleep twitches) involve an involuntary jerk or twitch that happens just as you're about to fall asleep. These starts are sometimes accompanied by a falling sensation and are more likely to affect those with irregular sleep schedules.