I present this thread in a hope to examine and discuss the scientific explanations of weird sleep disturbances, sleep disorders, and sleep habits.
Although, I am not entirely convinced that every scientific explanation is complete without a complementary metaphysical explanation (OOBEs for
example.) I offer the science first for those who are curious or in need of some scientific/medical answers...
However, at the request of member rickymouse, I'd also like to open up this thread to the alternative and the paranormal explanations, theories, and
experiences of sleep disorders and sleep disturbances.
For the last few nights I’ve been hearing a popping, clicking sound just minutes after I’d fall asleep. The noise would wake me up and I
couldn’t figure out what it was. It sounded a little like wood creaking—could it be the bed frame? It also sounded like something striking a piece
of hard plastic. I also wondered if maybe it was a rat coming out after my activity had ceased.
It was puzzling me for several nights. Then it hit me! This sound was coming from my own body. I tried listening closely for a rat under my bet until
I started to fall back asleep and then click-pop!
This time I felt my epiglottis snapping shut—much like a hiccup. It just turned out to be
my body winding down, I’m sure.
But there are still many weird things that happen when we transition from waking consciousness to sleep. Yes, sleep is an altered state of
consciousness that produces physiological responses. After I realized that I was simply…sleep-hiccuping…I then thought back to all those sleep
disturbances I have experienced without the benefit of scientific explanation at my disposal.
Let’s begin with the hiccups, shall we? Although I experienced only a single hiccup, I suspect I just need to find a new position to sleep in that
is better for my airways.
While much more research is needed to understand the mechanisms involved, it may be that the oxygen deprivation that occurs with sleep apnea can
trigger hiccups. Sleep apnea is a condition where the throat becomes temporarily blocked, or the brain fails to signal the respiratory muscles during
sleep. This leads to frequent periods during the night where breathing stops temporarily. The person often awakes with a loud snore or gasp. This
abnormal breathing pattern may trigger hiccups
And while we’re on the subject of noises that disturb us in our sleep, let’s review…
Exploding Head Syndrome
It sounds very sinister—and kind of is! Although not physically harmful, it can leave sleepers a little shell-shocked.
Exploding head syndrome is a rare and relatively undocumented parasomnia event in which the subject experiences a loud bang in their head similar
to a bomb exploding, a gun going off, a clash of cymbals or any other form of loud, indecipherable noise that seems to originate from inside the head.
Contrary to the name, exploding head syndrome has no elements of pain, swelling or any other physical trait associated with it. They may be perceived
as having bright flashes of light accompanying them, or result in shortness of breath, though this is likely caused by the increased heart rate of the
subject after experiencing it. It most often occurs just before deep sleep, and sometimes upon coming out of deep sleep.
What actually causes the sensation in individuals is still unknown, though speculation of possible sources includes minor seizures affecting the
temporal lobe, or sudden shifts in middle ear components.
Still haven’t identified your mystery sound yet?—well, luckily there is a blanket term (yeah, I’m a little cynical, so what?!) for all the
mystery noises, visions, tactile sensations, and quirky thoughts you may experience upon entering (hypnagogic) and exiting (hypnopompic) sleep. It’s
What is it?
In the hypnagogic state, visions, voices, weird insights and unusual sensations greet us as we drift out of consciousness. Faces may appear,
threatening or comical. A landscape may open up, with distant mountains and wide, expansive vistas. Geometric forms, jewels, diamonds and intricate
patterns may dance before our mind’s eye, not unlike those seen under the influence of certain psychoactive substances. Splashes of colour, flares,
sparks and cloud-like forms-known as ‘entoptic lights’, ‘phosphenes’ or eigenlicht, may drift through our drowsing consciousness, accompanied
by strange, nonsensical sentences announcing portentous truths. We may feel we are floating, or that our body has grown to enormous proportions, or
that we have suddenly grasped the answer to the riddle of the Universe.
How does it manifest itself? (click the wiki article for specific examples)
Transition to and from sleep may be attended by a wide variety of sensory experiences. These can occur in any modality, individually or combined, and
range from the vague and barely perceptible to vivid hallucinations.
The scientific explanation?—is weak, but here’s a start.
Although there are several potential causes of hypnagogic hallucinations, most of them are speculative, based upon what medical science knows about
the neurology of the brain. Studies to date have revealed that individuals who experience hypnagogia also frequently suffer with narcolepsy, sleep
paralysis, or a type of anxiety disorder. Many people experience one or more hypnagogic hallucinations without ever being sure why. Anxiety,
however, may play a role in disrupting the normal neural activity during the period that an individual is falling asleep, predisposing him to a
When falling asleep, one can also experience muscle twitches that suddenly wake us up. These are called Hypnic Jerks
Hypnic jerks are myoclonus twitches, or involuntary muscle spasms, but sleep starts occur during hypnagogia, the stage when the body is falling
Movement plays a role in sleep — involuntary twitches commonly take place during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, but these jolts occur with dreams
whereas hypnic jerks occur before the body can dream.
While the cause remains unknown and little research is done on hypnic jerks (they are considered harmless and normal and are often too fleeting for
There is also an annoying little phenomenon that can make it difficult to relax and fall asleep. It is called Restless Leg Syndrome
People with restless legs syndrome have uncomfortable sensations in their legs (and sometimes arms or other parts of the body) and an irresistible
urge to move their legs to relieve the sensations. The sensations are difficult to describe: they are an uncomfortable, "itchy," "pins and needles,"
or "creepy crawly" feeling in the legs. The sensations are usually worse at rest, especially when lying or sitting. The sensations can lead to sleep
deprivation and stress.
In most cases, doctors do not know the cause of restless leg syndrome; however, they suspect that genes play a role. About half of people with RLS
also have a family member with the condition.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced this next sleep disturbance, and know all too well how negatively it can affect our quality of sleep. The urge to
urinate throughout the night, usually multiple times is called Nocturia
Although it is relatively benign, persistent nocturia can be indicative of other underlying medical conditions and possibly even sleep apnea (sleeping
A frequent need to get up and go to the bathroom to urinate at night is called nocturia. It differs from enuresis, or bed-wetting, in which the
person does not arouse from sleep, but the bladder empties anyway. Nocturia is a common cause of sleep loss
Until recently, nocturia was thought to be caused by a full bladder, but it is also a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. According to Michael J.
Thorpy, MD, and Jan Yager, PhD…relief of the obstructive sleep apnea syndrome will alleviate the nocturia.
So far I have covered a few sleep disturbances and annoying symptoms that can interfere with sleep. Before I jump over to sleep disorders there is one
last sleep disturbance episode I’d like to set the record straight on. Particularly on ATS, I see posters refer to sleep paralysis (something I will
be coming to shortly) as “night terrors.”
In reality, Night Terrors
describes a completely unique phenomenon that is totally dissimilar compared to sleep paralysis.
A night terror, also known as sleep terror or pavor nocturnus, is a parasomnia sleep disorder characterized by extreme terror and a temporary
inability to regain full consciousness. The subject wakes abruptly from the fourth stage of 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
A “night terror” is simply a rude awakening where the sleeper does not become fully coherent or cognizant, or it takes them a few minutes to
become awake and alert. This is especially prevalent in children.
This contrasts greatly with sleep paralysis in numerous ways. Ahh, the infamous…
Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During
these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking.
Sleep paralysis may accompany other sleep disorders such as narcolepsy.
Sleep researchers conclude that, in most cases, sleep paralysis is simply a sign that your body is not moving smoothly through the stages of sleep.
Rarely is sleep paralysis linked to deep underlying psychiatric problems.
Over the centuries, symptoms of sleep paralysis have been described in many ways and often attributed to an "evil" presence: unseen night demons in
ancient times, the old hag in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and alien abductors. Almost every culture throughout history has had stories of shadowy
evil creatures that terrify helpless humans at night. People have long sought explanations for this mysterious sleep-time paralysis and the
accompanying feelings of terror.
researchers used drugs to "switch off" these receptors in rats and discovered that the only way to prevent sleep paralysis during REM was to shut
both types off at the same time. What that means is that glycine alone isn't enough to paralyze the muscles. You need GABA, too.
So, if sleep paralysis is when our minds are awake while our bodies are asleep—what happens when our minds are asleep but our bodies are awake? Then
you might have…
REM Behavior Disorder
For most people, dreams are purely a "mental" activity: they occur in the mind while the body is at rest. But people who suffer from REM behavior
disorder (RBD) act out their dreams. They physically move limbs or even get up and engage in activities associated with waking. Some talk, shout,
scream, hit, punch, or fly out of bed while sleeping!
Studies of animals may explain REM behavior disorder. Animals who have suffered lesions in the brain stem have exhibited symptoms similar to RBD. Cats
with lesions affecting the part of the brain stem that involves the inhibition of locomotor activity will have motor activity during REM sleep: they
will arch their backs, hiss and bare their teeth for no reason, while their brain waves register normal REM sleep.
In addition to acting out our dreams, sometimes we act out our normal, daily routines and can sleep-walk, sleep-eat, sleep-text, or even have
More people are reporting sending text messages during their sleep, says Dr Kirstie Anderson…"It is very common for people to do things in their
sleep that they do repeatedly during the day," says Anderson. This is largely down to sleep disorders called parasomnias. These are unwanted
behaviours that occur during sleep. They can be as small as opening your eyes while asleep or, at the very extreme end, driving a car while sleeping.
Anderson has even treated someone who carefully dismantled grandfather clocks while asleep.
Often snacking in your sleep is not a big problem, but in more extreme cases it is classed as Nocturnal Eating Syndrome (NES). Again, increased
awareness of the sleep disorder means more people are being referred to sleep clinics with it.
Sexsomnia, a condition where people have sex in their sleep, has only really been brought to the public's attention in recent years. As yet very
little research has been done into it, say sleep experts, but more cases are being reported.
It can become more frequent during times of stress or under the influence of alcohol or drugs and ranges from minor behaviour to full sexual
intercourse, in some cases with serious consequences.
sexsomnia is a parasomnia. It is most likely to occur in the "deep sleep" stage when the thinking and awareness part of the brain is switched off but
not the part of the brain responsible for basic urges like having sex.
The next set of disorders are related to an irregularity in the body’s biological clock (circadian rhythms.)
Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder
and Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder
When a person's biological clock gets out of sync with accepted norms, sleep disorders arise. In delayed sleep phase insomnia, the person falls
asleep and awakens later than required for normal activities such as work and school.
This condition, in which the person's biological clock shifts to earlier hours—typically falling asleep before 9 p.m. and awakening between 3
and 5 a.m. and failing to return to sleep.
Sometimes I felt like I belonged on a different planet—I knew it!
Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Syndrome
In this condition, the person's biological clock is 25 hours or longer, meaning that sleep and wake times are continually getting later.
Although most of us wish we could get more sleep—be careful what you wish for! Although uncommon, a very prolonged period of sleep (hypersomnolence)
may be an example of Kleine-Levin Syndrome or…
Sleeping Beauty Syndrome
Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS) is a rare and complex neurological disorder characterized by periods of excessive amounts of sleep and altered
behavior. The disorder strikes adolescents primarily. At the onset of an episode the patient becomes progressively drowsy and sleeps for most of the
day and night (hypersomnolence), waking only to eat or go to the bathroom. When awake, the patient’s whole demeanor is changed, often appearing
“spacey” or childlike. When awake he experiences confusion, disorientation, complete lack of energy (lethargy), and lack of emotions (apathy).
Most patients report that everything seems out of focus, and that they are hypersensitive to noise and light.
The mean diagnostic delay for proper KLS diagnosis is four years, causing undue suffering to patients and families. The cause of Kleine-Levin Syndrome
is not known.
While some researchers speculate that there may be a hereditary predisposition, others believe the condition may be the result of an autoimmune
disorder. Both proposals need not be mutually exclusive with the result being a malfunction of the portion of the brain that helps to regulate
functions such as sleep, appetite, and body temperature (hypothalamus). Recent studies also suggest that there may be a link to a deficiency of
dopamine transporter density in the lower striatum.
As might be expected, sleeping too little has equally debilitating effects on our lives.
and Sleep Deprivation
Insomnia is a disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or both. With insomnia, you usually awaken feeling unrefreshed,
which takes a toll on your ability to function during the day. Insomnia can sap not only your energy level and mood but also your health, work
performance and quality of life.
Common causes of insomnia include:
• Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol
• Medical conditions
• Change in your environment or work schedule
• Poor sleep habits
The consequences of sleep deprivation are numerous, disastrous, and sometimes deadly.
• Decreased Performance and Alertness: Sleep deprivation induces significant reductions in performance and alertness. Reducing your nighttime sleep
by as little as one and a half hours for just one night could result in a reduction of daytime alertness by as much as 32%.
• Memory and Cognitive Impairment: Decreased alertness and excessive daytime sleepiness impair your memory and your cognitive ability -- your
ability to think and process information.
• Stress Relationships: Disruption of a bed partner's sleep due to a sleep disorder may cause significant problems for the relationship (for
example, separate bedrooms, conflicts, moodiness, etc.).
• Poor Quality of Life: You might, for example, be unable to participate in certain activities that require sustained attention, like going to the
movies, seeing your child in a school play, or watching a favorite TV show.
• Occupational Injury: Excessive sleepiness also contributes to a greater than twofold higher risk of sustaining an occupational injury.
• Automobile Injury: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates conservatively that each year drowsy driving is
responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities.
The good news for many of the disorders that cause sleep deprivation is that after risk assessment, education, and treatment, memory and cognitive
deficits improve and the number of injuries decreases.
In the long term, the clinical consequences of untreated sleep disorders are large indeed. They are associated with numerous, serious medical
• High blood pressure
• Heart attack
• Heart failure
• Psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders
• Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
• Mental impairment
• Fetal and childhood growth retardation
• Injury from accidents
• Disruption of bed partner's sleep quality
• Poor quality of life
Okay, I think I covered most of the basics! Although sleep science hasn’t managed to satiate my curiosity in many matters, I find the field
incredibly fascinating. We spend approximately 1/3 of our lives in this altered state of consciousness, and I think it’s worthy of more
(open-minded) medical and scientific research.
If anything, our waking lives are greatly affected by our sleeping lives—even if it’s just because we didn’t get a good night’s rest before an
important day. Although this thread is only meant to inform, not diagnose, I recommend seeking diagnosis and medical treatment for any sleep disorders
you suspect you might have. Otherwise, I recommend the most common preventative measure against sleep disorders and sleep disturbances.
That brings me to my conclusion— Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness.
good sleep hygiene practices include:
• Avoid napping during the day; it can disturb the normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness.
• Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. While alcohol is well known to speed the onset of sleep, it
disrupts sleep in the second half as the body begins to metabolize the alcohol, causing arousal.
• Exercise can promote good sleep. Vigorous exercise should be taken in the morning or late afternoon. A relaxing exercise, like yoga, can be done
before bed to help initiate a restful night's sleep.
• Food can be disruptive right before sleep; stay away from large meals close to bedtime. Also dietary changes can cause sleep problems, if someone
is struggling with a sleep problem, it's not a good time to start experimenting with spicy dishes. And, remember, chocolate has caffeine.
• Ensure adequate exposure to natural light. This is particularly important for older people who may not venture outside as frequently as children
and adults. Light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
• Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before trying to go to sleep. Don't
dwell on, or bring your problems to bed.
• Associate your bed with sleep. It's not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read.
• Make sure that the sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing. The bed should be comfortable, the room should not be too hot or cold, or too
Can I get a TL;DR + fell asleep?
(note: this thread is not intended to cure insomnia, but it probably will!)
Thanks for reading, hope you found something of value here—or at the very least, are as interested in sleep science as I am. As always, please help
me fill in the gaps and keep the information updated.
(Morpheus, Greek God of dreams)
edit on 21-5-2013 by NarcolepticBuddha because: (no reason given)