7 weird things that can happen while you sleep
Some of these might be happening to you without you knowing.
1. Feeling like youâ€™re falling
Also known as a hypnagogic jerk, it tends to happen as youâ€™re falling asleep.
Typically when you dream, your body is paralyzed, but sometimes you can start dreaming before your body is on â€œoffâ€ mode.
With hypnagogic jerks, you might act out a dream like falling off a cliff, falling from the sky, or tripping, says Dr W Christopher Winter,Â Menâ€™s HealthÂ sleep advisor and medical director of the sleep centre at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Virginia.
Why the falling? Researchers arenâ€™t sure. â€œItâ€™s more likely to happen when youâ€™re overtired, sleep-deprived or stressed,â€ Dr Winter says. â€œAnd your brain enters into sleep cycles more aggressively, but your body hasnâ€™t caught up.â€
2. Sleep paralysis
You start to wake up in the morning and realize you canâ€™t move a muscle or speak. It can last from several seconds to several minutes, and itâ€™s completely terrifying.
Essentially, itâ€™s the opposite of what happens with hypnagogic jerks, where your brain wakes up before the paralysis that accompanies deep sleep goes away, Dr Winter says.
â€œYou may feel like you canâ€™t breathe. Many people describe it as an elephant sitting on their chest. Thatâ€™s because all of the muscles that control your breathing except for the diaphragm are still paralyzed.â€
Most sleep-related behaviors are harmless. But sleepwalking can be a dangerous issue, since you can trip, walk into something, leave your house or even get behind the wheel.
â€œWith sleepwalking, youâ€™re coming out of sleep just enough for your body to move, but not enough for your brain to be awake,â€ says Dr Winter.
Thatâ€™s why you probably have no recollection of your late-night jaunts. The prescription sleep-aid Ambien (known as Zolpidem in South Africa) has been linked to some of the more bizarre sleepwalking incidents including cooking, binge eating and driving while zonked out.
Thatâ€™s because even if you wake up during the night, the drug keeps your brain sedated so youâ€™re still in an unconscious state, Dr Winter says.
If you experience unusual or dangerous nighttime antics and pop the sleeping pill, talk to your doctor about switching prescriptions.
About 5% of adults yap in their sleep, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Most pillow-talk sessions last only about 30 seconds on average.
â€œIt often happens within the first hour or two of sleep when your body is entering into deep stages of sleep, but thereâ€™s still enough muscle tone to produce sounds or movements that may accompany dreams,â€ says Dr Winter.
5. Recurring dreams
â€œDreaming is a way for your brain to sort out things it needs to reevaluate and process before it can file them away as memories,â€ Dr Winter says. â€œRecurring dreams may happen with unresolved psychological issues your brain is trying to sort out.â€
Oftentimes, recurring dreams are based partly in reality. â€œIf you were robbed at the grocery store, you might replay that over and over during sleep until you come to grips with it â€“ whereas if you went to the store to get bread and milk, your brain would process it right away and move on,â€ Dr Winter adds.
6. Sleep sex
Youâ€™re not the only one who has woken up mid-act. In a study of more than 800 patients at a sleep disorders centre, about 8% of patients reported incidents of sexsomnia â€“ initiating sex with a partner while asleep, according to researchers at the University Health Network in Toronto.
â€œIn my experience working with patients, the attitudes, behaviours and things people may say during sleep sex are often very different from what theyâ€™d do and say when fully awake,â€ Dr Winter says.
As a parasomnia, the phenomenon is similar to sleepwalking â€“ youâ€™re coming partly out of deep sleep enough that you can move and possibly talk, but your brain isnâ€™t awake enough to be fully conscious.
â€œMany people have a vague recollection of it happening during the night or they wake up during sex,â€ says Dr Winter. â€œItâ€™s possible you may have been dreaming about sex or perhaps you went to bed with the urge.â€
7. Exploding Head Syndrome
Itâ€™s just as freaky as it sounds: â€œAll of a sudden, the person wakes up having heard a really loud noise, like an explosion, a flash of light, or a sense that their head is exploding,â€ says Dr Winter. â€œIn reality, nothing has actually happened.â€
Itâ€™s a type of hypnagogic jerk, similar to feeling like youâ€™re falling: Youâ€™re heading toward deep sleep, but your body hasnâ€™t achieved paralysis yet, and your senses are still turned on.
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