Has your partner ever turned to you in the morning and complained about your strange behaviour during the night? If so, you could have been suffering a bout of parasomnia, the unusual things we do during the hours of slumber. Things that include...
Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, is the best-known form of parasomnia. This affects around four per cent of adults. It takes places during ‘deep sleep’, non-REM periods. Although the brain is partially awake, sleepwalkers are not aware of their actions. In other words they have no memory of events the next day.
Sometimes, sleepwalkers can do amazing things, like 55-year-old Scottish chef, Robert Wood, who gets up four or five times a week while asleep. He heads to the kitchen where he prepares omelettes, stir fries and chips!
Here’s a modern one, something that did not exist a generation ago. Increasingly common amongst teenagers, people are texting and messaging friends whilst asleep. Then waking with no recollection of ever having done so. It’s believed that it’s caused by a combination of excessive phone use and poor sleeping habits amongst teens.
Sleep Talking, or somniloquy, is very common and most of us have likely done it at some point in our lives. It can be very loud or a quiet mumble. It can be clear as day or a barely coherent stream of consciousness.
Perhaps the most famous example of somniloquy concerns epic sleep talker, Dion McGregor, who would narrate his dreams in amazing detail. Back in the 1960s, a friend of the New Yorker recorded his tales, which were eventually released as an LP by the legendary Decca record label, under the title, The Dream World of Dion McGregor.
The Hypnic Jerk
Most of us have probably experienced this. It’s that moment just as sleep is in reach when your body decides to act like it has just received an electric shock, ‘jerking’ you awake in the process. They can be particularly embarrassing if you’ve having a doze in a public place, like on a bus or train. Nobody is certain what causes them but it’s thought that factors such as stress, caffeine intake and anxiety can play their part.
Although similar to sleepwalking, this takes place during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. It’s understood that sufferers begin to physically react to their dreams. Recent research by the University of Minnesota into this disorder cited several bizarre examples, including:
- A 77-year old minister who had been behaving violently in his sleep for 20 years, sometimes even injuring his wife.
- A 60-year old surgeon who would jump out of bed whilst he had nightmares about being attacked by ‘criminals, terrorists and monsters’.
- A 57-year old retired headmaster who spent two years punching and kicking his wife in response to nightmares in which he was protecting his family from intruders and snakes.