Many people may mumble in their sleep or toss and turn. Some have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. There are conditions much more irregular than these that indicate your sleep quality isn’t all it should be. If you’ve ever lived with a sleep walker or talker, you know that it can be pretty funny when they go about their night-time antics.
It gets a lot less funny when, say, your son gets up and walks out the front door at 2:00 a.m. (Asked the next day, he has recollection of neither getting up and walking out nor of your going out after him to guide him back inside.) Or suddenly hearing the voice of your housemate babbling on, then rising to a yell. These are not all that uncommon.
Sleep disorders affect not just the sleeper
Parasomnia is a sleep disorder in which your slow wave sleep is disrupted. Slow wave sleep is our deep sleep, where our bodies truly rest. It is this phase of sleep that finds us sleepwalking, talking, and eating and when sexsomnia, night terrors, and restless leg syndrome occur.
Dr. Nitun Verma is a specialist in sleep medicine of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders:
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“I heard about one patient who, after getting the wrong sleep medication, sleep drove to Taco Bell, ate a ton of burritos, then returned home to bed. He didn’t remember any of it but put the pieces together when he found hot sauce packets all over himself. Textbook sleepwalking, which is a parasomnia.
“I remember another patient who is a high profile professor at a prestigious university. He suffered from exploding head syndrome, where he would hear a violent explosion in his head just as he started to fall asleep.”
Sleep driving and sleep eating are also parasomnia disorders. Eating while asleep doesn’t usually pose a problem–unless someone tries to cook using a stove or other appliance–but imagine driving while sleeping. Puts a whole new spin on yelling “wake up!” as the traffic light turns green but the car in front of you doesn’t move.
There are drugs that can help but by their very nature, any foreign substance disrupts natural sleep–better to try less intrusive methods first, beginning very simply with sleep rituals. These can lead to a more restful sleep with fewer awakenings.