Sleeping well has become less of a calming process to one that requires a lot of effort for many people around the world. The fast-tracked lifestyle taken on by the new generation is heavily influenced by burdening themselves with stress, staring at smartphones before bed or an over-reliance on caffeine. For many, the problem sustains for long periods of time.
Celebrating the benefits of healthy sleep and drawing attention to sleep problems by creating awareness of the types of disorders that exist needs to be taken into special consideration. Therefore, here are some of the strangest sleep-related conditions you may not be aware of.
A rare and complex neurological disorder, KLS is characterized by recurring periods of excessive amounts of sleep. At the onset of an episode, the individual becomes progressively drowsy and sleeps for the majority of the day and night – sometimes only waking to eat or use the toilet. Each episode can last for days, weeks or months, severely affecting normal daily activities such as school or work. KLS is sometimes called the “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome”.
Sleep paralysis is the temporary inability to move or speak that happens when you are waking up, or less commonly, when you are falling asleep. Although you are technically awake, your body is briefly paralyzed for a few seconds or minutes, and often you may hallucinate while this period lasts. Afterwards the sufferer is able to speak and move as normal. Although this can be scary for the individual, sleep paralysis does not cause you any harm. It can affect people of all ages, but it is more common in teenagers and young adults. It is caused when the mechanism that causes your muscles to relax temporarily continues after you have awoken.
Fatal Familial Insomnia
An extremely rare disease, Fatal Familial Insomnia affects the brain and the nervous system. It has no known cure and involves worsening insomnia, which can lead to hallucinations, delirium and confusion. When sleep is achieved, the individual may experience very vivid dreams. The average lifespan of a patient with FFI after the onset of symptoms is around 18 months.
Exploding Head Syndrome
In this disorder the person may experience loud noises, such as an explosion, the clash of cymbals or a gunshot. Although it is not associated with pain, it can cause distress or confusion. Women tend to be more at risk of EHS than men and the average age of onset is 50.
REM-Sleep Behaviour Disorder
REM-Sleep Behaviour Disorder involves abnormal behaviour during the sleep phase with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which was first described in the 1980s. REM sleep is the stage of sleep in which more vivid dreams occur. As a result of the condition, paralysis is lost and the individual may act out dreams – which ranges from limb twitching to moving around and talking and sleepwalking. The individual’s behaviour can be violent, with the potential to cause injury to themselves or others.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, the condition affects the nervous system and causes an overwhelming urge to move the legs. It can also cause a crawling sensation in the feet and legs, which is often worse at night. Mild cases of the condition can be treated with lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, but more severe cases may require medication to regulate levels of dopamine or iron in the body.
Narcolepsy is a rare and long-term brain disorder which causes a person to suddenly fall asleep. The brain is unable to regulate sleeping and waking patterns normally, which can lead to sleep attacks (suddenly falling asleep without warning), cataplexy (loss of muscle control), and excessive drowsiness and sleep paralysis.
Sleep-Related Eating Disorder
Sleep-eating occurs when an individual awakens during the night and eats and drinks, but does so unconsciously and so has little or no memory of the incident taking place. Treatment may involve staying for a few nights in a sleep lab to monitor an individual’s sleeping habits, followed by treatment to reduce stress, anxiety and medication.
The list is not exhaustive. However, these are some sleep disorders that people must be aware of because you never know which sleep disorder might be the cause of your restlessness!