Rapid eye movement behavior disorder
In this disorder, a person loses paralysis which is normal for the Rapid Eye Movement period, causing their body to freely act out their dreams. These behaviours can be violent in nature and in some cases will result in injury to either the patient or their bed partner. RBD is a treatable condition. The standard therapy is the anti-convulsant drug clonazepam, and this is generally received very well. The reason for its effectiveness is unknown, but it restores the natural paralyzed state of a person in the REM stage of sleep.
A night terror is a parasomnia sleep disorder characterized by extreme terror and a temporary inability to regain full consciousness. The subject wakes abruptly from slow-wave sleep, with waking usually accompanied by gasping, moaning, or screaming. It is often impossible to fully awaken the person, and after the episode the subject normally settles back to sleep without waking. A night terror can rarely be recalled by the subject. Night terrors are distinct from nightmares in several key ways. First, the subject is not fully awake when roused, and even when efforts are made to awaken the sleeper, he/she may continue to experience the night terror for ten to twenty minutes. Often times it’s extremely dangerous for the person, for it can cause trauma, and even hurting someone (e.g. trying to kill “the murderer” and in fact injuring someone else).
Bruxism is the disorder in which a person grinds or clenches their jaw during sleep. It is one of the most common sleep disorders with up to 40 million Americans suffering from it. This disorder can result in serious damage to the teeth so treatment is well advised. It can lead to facial pain and headaches, and in severe, chronic cases, it can lead to arthritis of the temporomandibular joints. Most bruxers are not aware of their bruxism and only 5-10% go on to develop symptoms such as jaw pain and headache. While there is no cure for this disorder, doctors either recommend mouthguards or botox injections.
Restless Legs Syndrome
While this disorder can effect a person who is awake, it is at its worst during sleep or periods of non-movemement. Restless Legs Syndrome is a condition that is characterized by an irresistible urge to move one’s body to stop uncomfortable or odd sensations. It most commonly affects the legs, but can also be in the arms and torso. Moving the affected body part modulates the sensations, providing temporary relief. For relief of this disorder, some doctors prescribe anticonvulsants, opioids (such as methadone), or Benzodiazepines. Medicating a person with Restless Legs Syndrome is currently a controversial practice.
Non-24-hour sleep-wake syndrome
This odd (and extremely rare) disorder consists of a person’s body not recognizing the 24 hour sleep cycle. Consequently, the body will not allow itself to sleep in a regular day/night pattern. Left untreated, non-24-hour sleep-wake syndrome causes a person’s sleep-wake cycle to change every day, the degree determined by how much over 24 hours the cycle lasts. The cycle may go around the clock, eventually returning to “normal” for one or two days before going “off” again. In many cases it can take up to a week for the body to complete one cycle of its disturbed pattern. To add even further weirdness, this disorder takes place almost exclusively in blind people (though there have been one or two accounts of a sighted person suffering from it).
Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. Each episode lasts long enough so that one or more breaths are missed, and occurs repeatedly throughout sleep. Clinically significant levels of sleep apnea are defined as five or more episodes per hour. Individuals suffering from this sleep disorder are rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. It is usually recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected because of its effects on the body. Symptoms may be present for years, even decades without identification, during which time the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance. The most common treatment treatment for sleep apnea is the use of a positive airway pressure (PAP) device. The PAP ‘splints’ the patient’s airway open during sleep by means of a flow of pressurized air into the throat. Other treatments such as surgery and medication also exist.
Kleine-Levin syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by the need for excessive amounts of sleep, sometimes for up to 20 hours a day, and is normally accompanied with excessive food intake (compulsive hyperphagia) and an abnormally uninhibited sexual drive (hypersexuality). While some researchers speculate that Kleine-Levin syndrome is the cause of a hereditary predisposition, others believe the condition may be the result of an autoimmune disorder. There is no definitive treatment for Kleine-Levin syndrome. Stimulants, including amphetamines, methylphenidate, imipramine and modafinil, administered orally, are used to treat sleepiness. Because of similarities between Kleine-Levin syndrome and certain mood disorders, lithium and carbamazepine may be prescribed. Responses to treatment have often been limited.
Somniloquy (Sleep Talking)
Somiloquy refers to talking aloud in one’s sleep. It can be quite loud, ranging from simple sounds to long speeches, and can occur many times during sleep. Listeners may or may not be able to understand what the person is saying. Sleep-talking usually occurs during transitory arousals from non-REM sleep, which is when the body does not move smoothly from one stage in non-REM sleep to another, and they become partially aroused from sleep. Further it can also occur during REM sleep at which time it represents a motor breakthrough of dream speech, when words spoken in a dream are spoken out loud. There are no medical treatments for this, but in order to prevent sleep-talking a mouthguard may be worn.
Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder that is commonly associated with falling asleep at random times. Narcoleptics tend to fall directly into REM sleep, when most dreaming occurs, and less commonly enter deeper and more restful stages of non-REM sleep. As a result, they are unable to stay awake for extended periods of time, and upon falling back asleep, they still are unable experience sleep’s more restorative stages – - causing a vicious cycle of extreme sleepiness and inability to stay awake after having slept. Another symptom can include cataplexy, the sudden collapse of an individual into REM sleep upon experiencing strong emotions. Sleep paralysis and hypnogogic hallucinations (hallucinations which accompany sleep paralysis) are also known to be symptoms. The cause of narcolepsy has not been determined. It is widely believed to be an autoimmune disorder, but it may also be genetic. Treatments include stimulants, anti-depressants, or hypnotic medications such as Xyrem.
Sexsomnia or Sleep Sex
Sexsomnia is a sleep disorder which causes people to commit sexual acts while they are asleep. It is considered to be a distinct variant of sleepwalking. In some cases, sufferers are aware of their behavior for a long time before they seek help, often because they lack information that it is a medical disorder or for fear that others will judge it as willful behavior rather than a medical condition. However, the reality of sexsomnia has been confirmed by sleep disorder researchers who have made polygraphic and video recordings of patients with the condition while they are asleep and observed unusual brain wave activity during the episodes. Treatments are similar to those of other non-REM parasomnias such as sleep walking, which may involve specific interventions. By avoiding precipitating factors and ensuring for the safe environment, the condition could be brought to high level of control with a minimal effort. Sexsomnia is not always problematic or extreme for those who experience it or for their partners. There is a great variety in both the frequency and levels to which people are affected by this disorder.