This Halloween we decided to keep you awake with some real-life spooky stories. For most people sleep is a peaceful time for rest and recuperation, but for some going to sleep is like the beginning of a horror story. You’re now entering the realm of weird sleeping disorders.
Sleeping beauty syndrome - Kline-Levin Syndrome
Despite the nickname princesses are mostly safe from this syndrome as it usually affects young males around 15 and is characterized by excessive amount of time spent sleeping. Excessive meaning up to 20 hours a day for a few days or even several weeks. It is usually accompanied by excessive need for food (compulsive hyperphagia) and sometimes an uninhibited sexual drive.
Persons affected by this disorder are described as zombie-like; they suffer from apathy, confusion, hallucinations and childlike behaviour. Some of us might dream of being hit by this disorder right before our morning alarm sounds, but if it sounds fun to you, think again.
Here’s how a mother describes the behaviour of her son suffering from KLS: When told there was food downstairs he walked down like a zombie and sat eating with his head bowed over the plate, shovelling food into his mouth like a two-year-old child before going to sleep on the sofa. He was able to get undressed and go to bed but unable to respond with conversation.
There are no definitive findings on the causes of this syndrome. Some researchers believe causes are hereditary, others think it might be an autoimmune disorder. Either way it usually disappears on its own by the time patients get to their mid twenties.
Exploding Head Syndrome
Hold your horses, people! There will be no gory scenes of exploded heads this time, although this syndrome does terrify the sufferers. They are startled from sleep by loud, exploding sounds sometimes followed by visual hallucinations of bright lights or flashes. The sounds are compared to bombs exploding, gunshots, or cymbals crashing together.
This syndrome usually doesn’t cause pain or long term headaches, but can sometimes cause fear of going to sleep. Causes are still unclear though it might be triggered by jet leg or prolonged periods of stress.
This is how one patient describes his Exploding Head Syndrome: There’s this sudden crescendo of noise, then a profound and jarring explosion of sound, electrical fizzing and a bright flash in my vision, like someone has lit a spotlight in front of my face.
During REM phase of sleep the brain keeps the body immobile to prevent us from harming ourselves by acting out dreams. Sometimes this natural paralysis happens after a person wakes up or right before they fall asleep. Despite being fully awake the person is suddenly unable to move or speak. It can get even worse - sleep paralysis is sometimes combined with hallucinations. People usually report seeing giant bugs, feeling an evil presence in the room, or feelings of being crushed or choked.
Sleep paralysis is thought to be the actual cause of many ghost and alien abduction stories. Although there is no definitive cause for this syndrome, it is probably related to sleep deprivation and the cure is usually as easy as getting enough sleep.
And this is one of the real-life experiences: I’ve never had any visual encounters but when it happened the first time I was laying on my left side and started to feel that pressure on my chest. When I realized I was paralyzed and started panicking, something whispered in my ear “Just coming in to say goodnight.” That’s when I felt like something was pushing me towards the edge of my bed.
People who suffer from narcolepsy tend to fall directly into REM sleep. To make things worse, it happens at random times which can be very dangerous depending on where a person is and what they are doing. For narcoleptics, sleeping patterns are very unpredictable and they often suffer from loss of muscle tone, hallucinations and even sleep paralysis. They are also unable to experience more restorative stages of sleep which causes exhaustion and extreme sleepiness.
As with other mentioned sleeping disorders causes of narcolepsy are still unclear. Treatments include stimulants, anti-depressants, or hypnotic medications.
This is a story from a girl suffering from narcolepsy: When I was 16 years old – a sophomore in highschool – I started passing out up to 5 times a day. I would be in the middle of a conversation, or walking to the bathroom, or watching TV and just fall over, completely dead weight, and be unknown to the world for about 3 minutes.
As if exploding heads and sleep paralysis are not weird enough, here’s a disorder that makes people commit sexual acts while sleeping. Sexomnia is considered to be a distinct variant of sleepwalking. Research on this disorder is limited, but unusual brain activity during the episodes is confirmed.
Treatment is similar to the treatment of other non-REM sleeping disorders, such as sleepwalking. Making the sleep environment safe and sleeping alone until the condition is better managed is beneficial.
"Sexsomnia is a very real condition," says Matthew Walker, professor of neurology at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London. "People who suffer from sexsomnia are those who have an extended history of sleepwalking or other unusual sleep behaviors. It doesn't just occur out of the blue."
As you can see, sleep can get downright terrifying so let’s hope that waking up on Mondays is the scariest thing that’ll disrupt our precious sleeping patterns. Now, tell us which of these unpleasant sleeping disorders horrifies you the most?
To cheer you up a bit after such a story, we’ve prepared a Scary Bird Halloween Stickers for you. We hope you won’t end up having nightmares now, but even if you do - hey, it’s Halloween.