There are many mysteries that surround sleep - something that is indispensable in human life- that is yet to be fully understood, even though we engage in it daily. Till date, many things about sleep still confound or elude us. Conditions such as sleep walking, sleep paralysis, bed wetting and so on, have a significant impact on the daytime functioning, quality of life, and health of the individual. RALIAT AHMED explains.
Sleep is a state of unconsciousness from which a person can be aroused. Historically, sleep was thought to be a passive state, however, sleep is now known to be a dynamic process, and the brain is active during sleep.
During sleep a lot of things can happen which today are mysteries and the explanation still eludes us. Here are some sleep conditions that we experience one way or the other.
One form of sleep condition is sleep paralysis. This is the inability to move or speak as one goes from sleep to wakefulness. In sleep paralysis, when one lies in bed, it feels like somebody is standing over you in the darkness.
You try to move your head only slightly to take a subtle glance, but you can’t - as if something is surely holding you down. You attempt to struggle, to thrash your arms and legs, but you are frozen in place. Sheer panic washes over you as your paralysis lingers. Sleep paralysis occurs more while sleeping on one’s back; hallucinations often occur and may include a sense of an evil presence, of being touched, or hearing voices or voices in the room, occasionally faces or people may be seen at the bedside, a sense of breathlessness (or chest pressure, even someone standing on one’s chest) may exist.
But medical research shows that sleep paralysis is not harmful despite the unsettling feeling experienced by people who experience it.
Rapid Eye Movement, REM sleep behavior disorder is the opposite to sleep paralysis, which involves talking, yelling, punching, kicking or even jumping from bed. This form of sleep disorder could potentially be violent, especially if the person is kicking or punching his or her self or partner while sleeping. It has also been linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease and multisystem atrophy (a rare condition that presents symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease), and seems to occur several years before these diseases.
Sleep walking or sleep talking is a condition that happens when part of the brain is awake but the rest of it is asleep. In the case of sleep talking, people talk in their sleep. The condition is linked to several other sleep disorders such as night terrors and Sleep Related Eating Disorder (SRED) – i.e eating during sleep.
Sleep talking is very common in young children but while majority outgrow it, a few adults appear to sleep talk on a regular basis. It is not inherently dangerous, but if a child is prone to sleep walking, it is usually recommend that parents take safety precautions by locking windows and doors properly so that sleep-walking children do not accidentally hurt themselves.
Bedwetting, also known as enuresis, is the involuntary urination by a child who is older than age 5 or 6 mostly at night. This happens when a child’s body is not matured enough to maintain bladder control throughout the night.
Some children outgrow it as they get older without any intervention. In some cases, some adults bed wet, which can be very embarrassing.
Sometimes, bedwetting can be a genetically inherited trait .In some cases sleeping disorders like Obstructive Sleep Apnea, (OSA) can cause bedwetting but outside of the genetic aspect, it tends to be temporary and stress related.
Once the source of the stress is removed then the bed wetting stops just like what happens in the case of children.
Night terrors are considered to be a disorder of arousal and are a partial arousal from non-REM sleep. Sleep terrors can go on from 2 minutes to 20 minutes or longer, and can be very scary but not harmful. Sleep terrors are episodes of fear and screaming while asleep. It differs from nightmares.
In the latter, the person wakes up from the dream and remembers details, but in the former, the person remains asleep. During a sleep terror episode, a person might sit up in bed, scream, sweat, breathe heavily and have a racing pulse, get out of bed and run around the house and engage in violent behaviour.
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism is another sleep condition that is still not fully understood. It occurs when the teeth slide back and forth during sleep. This disorder could be quite annoying to sleep partners. According to experts, it could happen as a result of a number of factors, such as stress, uneven teeth, and inability to relax and sleeping habits. While this condition may not be harmful, in some cases, chronic teeth grinding can result in a fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth.The American Sleep Association reported that people over age 50 and women are more likely to experience the phenomena, and that it is associated with high stress and fatigue.
Sleep is one of the most important functions in life. Having one form of sleeping condition or the other can lead to difficulty dealing with school, work and even relationships.