When most people hear the term “sleep disorder,” they think of common conditions like insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy or sleepwalking.
But you might be surprised to learn of some of the more unusual sleep disorders that can have a profound effect on how well you perform during your waking hours.
- Sleep paralysis – Your body naturally becomes somewhat paralyzed during REM sleep, but in this frightening condition it’s still paralyzed as you awake. You are conscious but may be unable to move or speak for up to several minutes. Some sufferers feel as if they are choking. Sleep deprivation, certain drugs, and disorders like sleep apnea can be contributing factors to sleep paralysis.
- Hypnagogic jerks – These are those sudden jumps or twitches that occur as you start to nod off and sometimes experience the sensation of falling. Experts are unsure of the cause but suspect it is either an involuntary reaction of your nervous system relaxing as you drift off or the start of a dream before your body becomes paralyzed.
- REM behavior disorder – During the REM (rapid eye movement) cycle, a sleeper experiences a normal paralysis and dreams vividly without any physical movement. Those affected by REM behavior disorder, however, are compelled to move, often acting out their dreams as they are experiencing them. That leaves them – and those they may be sleeping with – vulnerable to serious injury.
- Night terrors – Not to be confused with nightmares, night terrors are far more severe, affecting your behavior, emotions, and perceptions while you’re asleep. You might suddenly awake, bolt upright in bed, scream out, gasp, or moan. It may take several minutes before you can regain consciousness and separate reality from a dream. In the meantime, you may act out violently, putting your bed partner at risk of injury. In fact, in the event of a nightmare, it can provoke violent defensive behavior. This condition may require therapeutic medication to induce normal paralysis during REM sleep.
- Bruxism – This disorder is better known as teeth grinding, or clenching your teeth as you sleep. Because you’re asleep, you’re unable to control the habit, and it can lead to soreness in the jaw and teeth. Believed to be caused by stress during the day, bruxism is often diagnosed by dentists who discover damage to the enamel of a patient’s molars. To prevent further damage, custom-fitted oral appliances called night guards are recommended.
The good news is that most sleep disorders can be diagnosed and treated following an evaluation by a qualified sleep specialist. If any of these conditions are preventing you from getting a good night’s rest, it may be time to visit a Sleep Medicine specialist.
As a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and the American Board of Medical Specialties in sleep medicine, Dr. Jeannine Gingras has made helping her patients get better rest the primary focus of her career. Founder and Medical Director at Gingras Sleep Medicine, and an internationally renowned expert on RLS (restless legs syndrome), she lends a personalized approach to medical care and will work with you to discover a solution to all of your shuteye woes. Call her office today at (704) 944-0562.