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A ‘normal’ night’s sleep is all relative to what you’re used to. For some, this means waking up refreshed in the same position in which you fell asleep. Others are not always so lucky--sleep can get a little weird.
Have you ever woken up suddenly because you felt like you were falling? What about raiding your fridge while still sound asleep? You’re not alone. Check out our list below of strange things that happen while we are sleeping.
1. Feeling like your falling.
If you have ever startled yourself awake from feeling like you are falling, you are not alone--it happens to 70% of people. This strange sensation accompanied by a twitch or jerk is called a ‘hypnic jerk.’ Their cause is still unknown, though there are two predominant theories. The first is that they are a physical response to your body downshifting your nervous system to go to sleep--your breathing and heart rate slow down and your temperature drops causing your muscles to shift, resulting in a twitch that wakes you up while all of this is happening. The second is that your brain misinterprets this internal ‘falling’ into sleep (or drifting off process) for a literal fall and tenses up your muscles to protect you.
When this happens, don’t worry, these twitches are not harmful, just do your best to go back to sleep.
This strange occurrence will happen more often if you have a high caffeine intake, you’re sleep deprived or under extreme emotional stress.
To prevent these jerks from spoiling your sleep, try cutting down on caffeine and maintaining good sleep hygiene.
Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, is a sleep disorder affecting up to 15% of people that occurs only during deep sleep. We often see it cartoonishly portrayed in the movies with the character stumbling around with their arms out, zombie style. Unfortunately, that is fairly accurate; your body comes out of sleep enough for you to move around but not enough for your brain to know what you’re doing. Like a zombie, this happens most often when you are seriously sleep deprived. Because this occurs only during deep sleep, it can be very difficult to wake a sleepwalker and they usually don’t remember the incident.
It is a common misconception that you shouldn’t wake a sleepwalker, but in reality, you really should! Often sleepwalking doesn’t only involve walking, they usually do a series of complex movements from anything as small as just sitting up in bed and looking around the room to walking to their car and driving. In that case, you should definitely wake them because, obviously, driving while asleep is very dangerous. Whenever you wake a sleepwalker, just be prepared for them to come out of it a little confused.
Sleepwalking is often caused by sleep deprivation or the use of sedatives (alcohol or prescription medication).
3. Sleep talking.
Sleep talking, or somniloquy, is a sleep disorder affecting 5% of people where the sleep-talker talks in their sleep without being aware of it. It’s more common in children than adults and in men rather than women.
The good news is: this disorder is not harmful to the sleeper. The bad news is: at times, it can be annoying and disruptive to anyone sharing a bed with a sleep-talker if the sleep talking is loud and startling. On the other hand, if the partner of the sleep talker has a good sense of humour, it can also be very funny as what is said during sleep talking is often nonsense.
As sleep-talkers don’t realize what they are saying, they can use strange voices, say odd things that could be occurring in their dream, do monologues or have full-on conversations with you--it’s a real adventure.
4. Sleep eating.
Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (SRED) is a sleep disorder causing abnormal eating during the night.
SRED occurs during sleepwalking and causes the sleeper to eat while they’re asleep. Sleepers experiencing SRED will sleepwalk into the kitchen during deep sleep and prepare food without having any memory of having done so in the morning when they wake up.
These nocturnal fridge raids usually only last for 10 minutes or so before the sleep-eater moves on or goes back to bed. Because the sleep-eater isn’t thinking with their rational mind, their dishes tend to be on the unusual side, often very high in calories and strange combos.
Again, without the use of the rational mind, fridges are very often left open and the kitchen is rarely cleaned up after-the-fact. Fires have even been reported from leaving the stove or toaster oven on and, if this happens regularly, obesity and type 2 diabetes are always a risk with SRED.
This disorder affects an unbelievable 17% of people and is more common in women than men. Dieting, ironically enough, coupled with sleep deprivation and stress can trigger this disorder as your body feels hungry at night and is craving extra food. This is also a notorious side effect of sleeping pills like Ambien.
5. Grinding your teeth.
People who grind their teeth while they sleep, suffering from a disorder called bruxism, often don’t realize it right away because, well, they are asleep while they’re doing it.
Telltale signs of teeth grinding include waking up with headaches, mouth tenderness, a sore jaw, or, in extreme cases, cracked or worn-down teeth.
If you suspect this may be happening to you, it’s important to talk to your dentist to prevent any further oral damage.
Thankfully, the solution is quite simple and usually just involves sleeping with a mouth-guard.
6. Lucid dreaming.
What would you do if you could do anything? In your dreams, there are, technically, no limits. Would you time-travel? Become a mermaid? Get ice cream with Elvis?
Most often, when we dream we don’t know that we are dreaming so, even though the events of our dreams feel real at the time, we usually don’t have any control over how each dream will unfold.
Lucid dreams are the exception; you are aware you are dreaming while in your dream.
The major debate is if we truly can influence the events within our dream once we realize we are dreaming, or if we are simply aware that it’s all a dream.
The one thing about lucid dreams that everyone can agree on is that they occur, without a doubt, in REM sleep. 51% of people will experience a lucid dream at some point in their lives.
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