6 Weird Things That Happen in Your Sleep and What to Do About Them

You’re not alone if you’ve ever experienced something unusual while trying to go asleep. Dr. Stephanie Stahl, a sleep medicine physician at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis and an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine, adds, “People regularly report ‘strange’ phenomena during or surrounding sleep.” The good news is that, according to Stahl, “many of these experiences are not alarming, especially if they occur infrequently.”

According to Frida Rngtell, PhD, sleep educator and adviser at Sleep Cycle, some of the weird sensations and experiences we have when sleeping might cause anxiety, making it difficult to obtain the rest you need. Sleep specialists have highlighted some of the most commonly-cited “weird” sleep disorders, as well as what you can do about them, to help you better grasp what’s worth worrying about and what’s completely normal.

 

1. AS YOU FALL ASLEEP, YOUR BODY SUDDENLY TWITCHES OR “JERKS”

 

These jerks, sometimes called hypnic or hypnagogic jerks, are generated by short muscle contractions that occur while you fall asleep. “Hypnic jerks are extremely prevalent, with around two-thirds of people experiencing them at some point in their lives,” Stahl explains.

 

According to Dr. Daniel Rifkin, a board-certified sleep specialist and CEO of Ognomy, we don’t know what causes them or where they arise in the brain. “Most people believe it’s because of brain signals that lead your muscles to cross when you fall asleep,” he explains. “They’re extremely brief, frequently lasting less than a second. They can be connected with a sensation of falling or even a sensation of being shocked.”

 

Inadequate sleep, excessive caffeine consumption, sleep apnea, mental stress, or strenuous activity can all produce hypnic jerks, according to Stahl.

 

What to do about it: According to specialists, there is probably no need to do anything. “If you have hypnic jerks frequently and they are disturbing your sleep,” Rngtell advises, “I would consider reviewing your sleep pattern and sleep hygiene to see if there is anything in your everyday activities that can be done differently to assist boost your odds of better sleep.” If that doesn’t work, she recommends speaking with your physician.

 

According to Lauri Leadley, a professional sleep educator and founder of Valley Sleep Center, changing your thinking about hypnic jerks can also assist. “Recognize that your body is falling asleep if you have these symptoms. Concentrate on breathing and relaxing, knowing that your brain and body are performing as they should. This will lead to a better night’s sleep if you reframe it as a pleasurable experience.”

 

2. AS YOU FALL ASLEEP, YOU HEAR OR SEE THINGS.

 

“Sleep-related hallucinations occur when you hear noises or see objects while you fall asleep or wake up,” Stahl explains. These can happen when you’re going asleep (hypnagogic hallucinations) or when you wake up (hypnagogic hallucinations) (hypnopompic hallucinations). Rifkin notes, “The simplest way to think about these sleep-wake transition hallucinations is that your brain is part awake and part asleep at the same time.”

 

Hallucinations are most common while people are entering REM sleep, but they can also occur in other sleep stages when you are still aware of being awake, as Stahl points out, which can be uncomfortable.

 

What should be done: Probably nothing. Because sleep hallucinations are more common when you’re tired, catching up on sleep can help. However, if this occurs regularly or interferes with your sleep, Rifkin suggests consulting a sleep specialist.

 

3. YOUR LEGS ARE “ITCHY” OR DIFFICULT TO KEEP STILL DURING THE NIGHT

 

“Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is fairly prevalent, comes before bedtime, and is characterised by a strange, almost inexplicable sensation in your legs or arms that makes you want to move to relieve the sensation,” Rifkin explains.

 

According to Stahl, restless legs syndrome can be caused by iron deficiency, kidney illness, and a variety of drugs, including most antidepressants and antihistamines, as well as the use of alcohol, caffeine, and smoking. Rifkin speculates that there could be a genetic component as well. People who have genetic RLS may recall seeing their parents strolling about the home late at night.

 

Rifkin suggests that if RLS occurs only sometimes, you should start with increasing your dietary iron intake. “Please get help if RLS is too regular and stops you from falling asleep or obtaining enough sleep.” The underlying cause will most likely be discovered through a physical exam and laboratory testing.

 

4. YOU ARE PARALYZED WHEN YOU RISE FROM A DREAM.

 

This is known as sleep paralysis, and it can last anywhere from a few seconds and many minutes. Sleep paralysis is a terrifying experience, but we now understand why it occurs. “Our brain tells most of our muscles to stop moving during REM sleep. We would play out our dreams all night if the brain didn’t inhibit these muscles,” Stahl argues. When we wake up from REM sleep, the signal directing our muscles not to move is sometimes still present, meaning we can only move our eyes and the muscles that allow us to breathe.

 

What to do about it: Sleep paralysis is often not hazardous, despite how frightening it can be. “It normally goes away on its own after a while,” Rngtell adds. “However, you may try to reduce the risk of episodes by maintaining a regular sleep schedule and healthy sleep habit, as well as sleeping in a position other than on your back.” ”I recommend discussing with a medical expert if you experience recurrent episodes, believe sleep paralysis is getting in the way of having a decent night’s sleep, or are particularly nervous about sleeping due of sleep paralysis.”

 

5. AS YOU FALL ASLEEP OR WAKE UP, YOU HEAR A LOUD “BANG.”

 

This one appears to be scary, but it’s actually perfectly normal. “The sensation of a sudden, loud banging or exploding noise during sleep onset or upon waking is known as exploding head syndrome,” Stahl explains. It’s frequently linked to stress or a lack of sleep.

 

What can be done about it: If this happens to you, Rifkin suggests rolling over and trying to fall back asleep. “If the ‘bangs’ are repeating or preventing you from sleeping, it may be necessary to seek further medical attention. Excessive activity, too many energy drinks or cups of coffee, and other lifestyle factors should all be looked into first.”

 

6. YOU MAKE YOUR DREAM COME TRUE.

 

“If you think about being in a football game, for example, you might attack your dresser or throw your bed mate to the side,” Rifkin explains. When the signal that stops your muscles from working (the same one that causes sleep paralysis) doesn’t work properly during REM sleep, this happens. This problem, known as REM behaviour disorder (RBD), can be dangerous not only for you but also for people around you.

 

Acting out your dreams, unlike most of the other phenomena on this list, necessitates a visit to your doctor and/or a sleep specialist. Rifkin advises seeking a specialist for a comprehensive neurological assessment because RBD can be linked to neurodegenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease.

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