Sleep disorders can be frustrating, scary, terrifying and even life threatening. This article cover the ten most common and scary of all the sleep disorders.
Anything that disrupts ones sleep is annoying, but there are some sleep disorders that can be downright scary. Some of them are just frightening to the person suffering from them and just scary to someone witnessing the effects they can have on the person suffering from them. Some sleep disorders can also be fatal if not treated in a timely and efficacious manner by a sleep specialist. The operative phrase here is “treated in a timely and efficacious manner by a sleep specialist.” Most medical doctors are not equipped or trained to diagnose and treat sleep disorders.
We will take an exploratory look at a few of the scary and/or potentially fatal ones in this article and see what “sleep specialists” do to treat them.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
One of the scariest and most dangerous of all the sleep disorders is Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is also one of the most common among the sleep disorders and is characterized by interruptions in breathing while the sufferer sleeps. A study conducted by the Center for Sleep Disorders at the Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J., showed that in severe cases, it leads to an irregular heart rate, oxygen deprivation to the brain, and even death. Obstructive Sleep Apnea increases a person’s risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes.
Sleep specialist treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea by advocating lifestyle changes, i.e., losing weight or sleeping on the one's side. In really severe cases, the sleep specialist may prescribe the use of dental devices, surgery, or sleeping with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine.
REM Behavior Disorder
People suffering from Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep behavior disorders act out whatever they are dreaming, which can cause them to harm themselves or their bed partner. People suffering from a REM sleep disorder should remove all sharp objects from their bedroom and are advised to sleep alone until the disorder is better managed.
Rapid Eye Movement sleep disorders are treated with a prescription medication called clonazepam. In some cases, Melatonin and certain antidepressants may also be prescribed for the patient.
Night terrors are much more intense than any nightmare and are most common in children. Night terrors are not dreams in the technical sense of the words but an abnormally strong reaction when the child transitions from one phase of sleep to another. It is best to not wake a child who is having a night terror because the child will wake up disoriented and in an inconsolable state of mind. Simply sit by the child’s bedside and watch the child, so he or she does not harm him or herself.
Night terrors are treated by reducing the stress in the child’s environment, by creating a soothing bedtime routine, and by not allowing the child from staying up too late. In some cases, medications may also be prescribed to control night terrors.
Sexsomnia is just one of a group of sleep disorders known as parasomnias. Parasomnias are where the person performs various activities without being aware of what they are doing. During sexsomnia people act out sexually while sleeping. The sexual acts performed during sexsomnia run the gamut from masturbation, to having intercourse with ones bedmate, to commit sexual acts that one would never do while awake, i.e., rape or child molestation.
Sexsomnia is treated by sleeping alone, by changing one’s lifestyle, i.e., eliminating all alcohol and drug usage, and using prescription medications.
Narcolepsy is commonly referred to as “Sleeping Sickness.” Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder, or dyssomnia, characterized by an excessive urge to sleep at inappropriate times, such as while at work. People with narcolepsy often experience disturbed nocturnal sleep and an abnormal daytime sleep pattern, which is sometimes confused with insomnia. Narcoleptics, when falling asleep, generally experience the REM stage of sleep within 10 minute, whereas most people do not experience REM sleep until an hour or so later.
Narcolepsy can be extremely dangerous, depending on what one’s doing when one falls asleep, such as driving a car. Narcoleptics also can experience loss of muscle tone, hallucinations, and even paralysis during these attacks.
Treatment usually involves a combination of prescription medications, behavioral therapy, and lifestyle changes.
Sleepwalking is probably the most common among all the parasomnias (see Sexsomnia), where the person gets up and walks around while sound asleep. Sleepwalkers can be dangerous to themselves and to others around them. There is not much that can be done to treat sleepwalking except for a few prescription medications that are used in extreme cases.
As with those suffering from Sexsomnia, keep the sleeping area safe by removing any sharp objects and other dangerous objects. If the sleepwalker sleeps in a bedroom on the second floor, place gate or other barrier at the top of the stairs to keep the sleepwalker from falling down the stairs and injuring him or herself. Sleepwalking is more common in children than in adults, but adults can suffer from it as well.
Restless Legs Syndrome
I have already covered the Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) in another article here on Factoidz.
Sleep paralysis usually accompanies narcolepsy and occurs just before falling asleep or right after waking up. The person suffering sleep paralysis will be unable to move parts of his or her body for a period of time that may last from mere seconds to several minutes. The treatment for sleep paralysis is the same as the treatment for narcolepsy.
Exploding Head Syndrome
The Exploding Head Syndrome has got to be the terrifying of all the parasomnias. The good news is that it is not as dangerous as it sounds. It is called the Exploding Head Syndrome because the sufferer experiences what sounds like an exploding bomb or a gun being shot off inside his or her head. Some suffers have described the sound as sounding like the clashing of cymbals.
The Exploding Head Syndrome, like any of the other parasomnias, is treated by reducing stress, avoiding potential triggers like drugs and alcohol, and attempting to get on a regular sleep cycle. In some cases, medication may be prescribed.
Well…we are all pretty familiar with that form of parasomnias.
Well, folks, there you have it, ten of the scariest and most terrifying sleep disorders that I know about.