Sleep is a coveted thing, with people going to great lengths to get to sleep and stay asleep. It can be the most peaceful time of day for anyone, whether settling in for the night or taking an afternoon power nap to pick up energy for the rest of the day. Sleep reinvigorates, gives the mind and body that shut off time they need at just the right moment and takes people to a place dreams are made of, and we’re not talking Disney World. We’re talking about actual dreams that take your mind and spirit away someplace else, albeit briefly.
Unfortunately, for some, sleep does not come so easy. From typical sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea to more unusual disorders like narcolepsy (where sleep comes too easy and when you don’t want it), sleep becomes a stressful endeavor for some unfortunate people. Many people lay up all night staring at the clock wondering when sleep will finally come and others take medications to get into that perfect dream state. With sleep having so many cycles and impacts on the body, it’s no wonder some very odd sleep disorders exist. Take a look at some of the weirdest sleep disorders around and how they affect so many.
10. Fatal Familial Insomnia
This is one sleep disorder you definitely do not want, as it inevitably leads to death. We all know that periodic feeling of insomnia, where it can take hours to get to sleep or when we can’t stay asleep and lay awake at night looking at the clock. Those who suffer from Fatal Familial Insomnia start out with what they think is average insomnia, but it progresses over time to the point where they can’t sleep at all. This dire lack of sleep causes damage to the body’s autonomic nerve system so severely that things like blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate are affected. Over the course of 18 months, the body begins to fail and death occurs.
9. Exploding Head Syndrome
This disorder sounds worse than it actually is, as heads do not actually explode. However, it is quite disturbing for those who suffer from it. Classified as a parasomnia, Exploding Head Syndrome causes the sufferer to hear an extremely loud sound just before falling asleep, which then disturbs their entire sleep cycle. It does not usually happen at the initial point of sleep, but instead after someone wakes in the middle of the night and attempts to fall back to sleep. Some of the loud sounds a person with this disorder may hear resemble a bomb or other loud, banging noises. Patients as young as 10 years old have been diagnosed with this sleep disorder.
8. Sleep Paralysis
Imagine being in a state in between consciousness and sleep where you want to move about, but you just can’t. That’s what sufferers of sleep paralysis feel like. This either occurs when someone is just ready to drift off to sleep or just waking. The body always goes through a state of atonia when sleeping, preventing the muscles from excessive movement. With sleep paralysis, atonia sets in too early or lasts too long, preventing a person from moving when they truly want to. The feeling typically lasts for only a few minutes and resolves itself on its own.
Think of The Walking Dead, but real. People with somnambulism may not be actual zombies, but they seem like them. Somnambulism is just another name for sleepwalking and more people suffer from this disorder than one might think. An estimated 15 percent of children between the ages of 8 and 12 are said to sleepwalk at one point or another, but typically grow out of it. While it may seem like a benign sleep disorder, it can be dangerous if the person suffering from it does something like get in a car and start driving—while technically still asleep. When sleepwalkers wake up, they seem to have no recollection of their somnambulism episode.
We all feel overtired at some point, especially if we’ve had a busy day or haven’t gotten enough sleep the day before. However, those who suffer from hypersomnia can sleep for an inordinately long amount of time. While the average person needs 6-8 hours of good, solid sleep a night, when a bout of hypersomnia comes on, the sufferer can sleep up to a solid 18 hours without waking. People with hypersomnia do not necessarily feel sleepy at all times, but episodes occur, usually preceded by excessive sweating and flu-like symptoms. Some women suffer from a menstrual type of hypersomnia caused by hormone fluctuations at certain times of the month.
5. REM-Sleep Behavior Disorder
Also known as RBD, REM-Sleep Behavior Disorder falls under the umbrella category of parasomnia. Those who suffer from this disorder have extremely vivid dreams and often act them out while sleeping. Some people think those with RBD are sleep walking or having night terrors, when they are actually deep in a dream that’s way too real. People with RBD may swear, kick, punch, and flail about to the point where they may hurt themselves in their sleep, which is why this is a disorder that needs treatment. The disorder is often found in men who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease or another muscle atrophy disorder.
4. Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Syndrome
A normal body has a circadian rhythm of about 24-25 hours, meaning there are normal sleep and wake times during that period. A person with Non-24-Hour-Sleep-Wake Syndrome veers from the norm and can actually stay awake for a full 48 hours without trying. Their body just does not need sleep as often, but it still needs an adequate amount of sleep. So, of course, when they do fall asleep, they stay that way longer and can sleep for 12 hours straight easily. While this is an extremely rare disorder, it is much less rare for people who are blind.
3. Kleine Levin Syndrome
While most of us dream of just sleeping the entire day away, some people literally need as much sleep as they can get. Those suffering from Kleine Levin Syndrome (also known as Sleeping Beauty Syndrome) can sometimes sleep up to 23 hours at a time, wake briefly and go right back to sleep. These bizarre sleep episodes can last for weeks, with the disorder primarily manifesting in boys around 15 years of age, but some females also suffer from it. For males, the disorder often goes away on its own after about 8 years, but for girls, it can last much longer.
2. Sleep Related Eating Disorder
It’s hard enough to control food cravings during the day and we think we are safe from them at night while we sleep. However, if you suffer from Sleep Related Eating Disorder, you will end up eating in the middle of the night and not even know it because you’re actually still partly asleep. This disorder does not help dieters, as the craved food is usually high in sugar, calories, and fat. Binging in the middle of the night certainly doesn’t do wonders for the figure, and when you binge on sugar while half asleep, dieting becomes even more difficult.
1. Restless Leg Syndrome
Imagine the feeling of having to move your legs each night when you get tired, and no matter what you do, your legs won’t stay still. You’re so extremely tired, your legs won’t stop moving and because you can’t stop moving your legs, you end up unable to fall asleep, despite your body and mind being exhausted. This then leads to insomnia and the insomnia leads to daytime sleepiness that interferes with your daily ability to function normally. While Restless Leg Syndrome just sounds like a tedious nuisance, it can cause anxiety, depression, and a physical sense of exhaustion all day long.