Sleep Disorders: The Wild West

Let's dig into some wild sleep disorders that may do more than just keep you awake at night.

By Joe Castignani

Have you ever had a dream that you’re falling and startled yourself into wakefulness? Everyone experiences an occasional nightmare or restless night’s sleep. But persistent sleep disorders can make it downright difficult to get a good night's rest.

Most of us are familiar with insomnia, a sleep disorder that can make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get enough quality sleep. It causes a variety of problems including daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. Insomnia is caused by a number of things, including stress, anxiety, depression, medical conditions, and certain medications.

But, if we dig a little deeper into sleep problems, we uncover some lesser-known and very unusual sleep disorders.

Here are a few of the weirdest sleep disorders out there:

  • Exploding head syndrome: This condition causes people to hear loud noises, like a gunshot or a bomb going off, as they are falling asleep or waking up. The noises are not real, but they can be very startling.

  • Sleep paralysis: As the name implies, sleep paralysis causes people to wake up unable to move or speak. They may also feel pressure on their chest or experience choking sensations. Sleep paralysis usually lasts for a few seconds or up to a minute and can be very scary.

  • Sleepwalking: Just as it sounds, sleepwalking causes people to walk or perform other activities while they are asleep. Sleepwalkers are typically unaware of their actions, and they may not remember them the next morning. Sleepwalking is dangerous, as sleepwalkers may wander around their homes or even venture outside without being aware of their surroundings.

  • Night terrors: Night terrors are… terrifying! Most common in younger children, it causes them to scream, cry, or thrash around in bed during sleep. They may appear to be awake and alert, but they are not. Night terrors can be frightening for both the person who is having them and for the people who witness them.

  • Fatal Familial Insomnia: The genetic neurological disease starts in the brain and is similar to Mad Cow Disease. Impacting the sleep-wake cycle of the brain, people can have extreme bouts of insomnia associated with weight loss, confusion, and paranoia. Death is usually the result. Luckily, it is very uncommon.

What have we learned?

If you believe you’re suffering from a sleep disorder, be sure to seek a diagnosis from your physician. With the right treatment, you can get a better night's sleep and start feeling better every day.

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Dream big, work hard, sleep ambitiously,

Joe Castignani