Five Weird Things You Might Do In Your Sleep
Have you ever woken up in the morning to the sight of a disgruntled partner, upset that you gave them a long speech in your sleep? This is one example of the many strange things we can do while we’re supposed to be oblivious to the world. Read on for our top five picks.
Although it is not clear exactly how many people experience parasomnias, or sleep disorders, it is likely that you — or someone you know — have faced at least one such event at some point.
Parasomnias are often associated with unsettling actions or behaviors, made all the more strange for being acted out in a person’s sleep, while they are completely unconscious.
However, although some of the strange things that we do in our sleep may be connected with the presence of a sleep disorder, others are, in fact, normal physiological occurrences that are extremely common.
In this Spotlight, we look at five of the strangest things some people do while they’re fast asleep.
1. Sleep talking
Sleep talking, or somniloquy, is a common physiological phenomenon, and it is reportedly more frequent in children and adolescents, though it is not an unusual occurrence in adults.
As Shelly Weiss notes in the book Parasomnias, episodes of sleep talking don’t tend to last very long, and they don’t, in fact, always include intelligible speech.
“Sleep talking is usually brief and infrequent, but can range from a person making a few sounds during sleep that are brief and unintelligible, to full phrases with understandable content or even frequent and long speeches which sound hostile or angry.”
A recent study conducted by Dr. Isabelle Arnulf of the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, France, investigated what sleep talkers are likely to say, and found that, in 10 percent of cases, sleep speech is rich in swear words and negative content.
In fact, swear words featured 800 times more often during sleep discourse than they normally did in an individual’s daytime talk.
Dr. Arnulf notes that this may be because sleep talking likely occurs in response to a negative dream situation that makes such impulsive and unguarded speech excusable.
Weiss explains that sleep talking episodes can occur at any stage of sleep and that they are “only disturbing to others,” that is, to bed partners.
And I can confirm — my partner’s sleep talking episodes, in which he usually expresses distress, never fail to unsettle me. But since he never remembers these occurrences the morning after, they don’t bother him at all.
But there are, according to Weiss, external situations that “may precipitate” sleep talking, so if you know that you — or your loved one — are prone to this, then eliminating these factors may help.
They include feverishness due to illness, experiencing stress and anxiety during day-to-day life, lack of sleep, or living with a sleep disorder.
Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, is perhaps the best-known type of parasomnia, having captured people’s imaginations for years, and featuring prominently in literature and movies.
This sleep disorder usually takes place during the stage three non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep; this is a “deep sleep” period in which brainwaves slow down, and breathing also becomes deep and slow-paced.
People cannot be easily woken at this stage, which is partly what makes sleepwalking so unsettling, as the somnambulist is physically active while still emerged in a deep state of slumber.
But the weirdness does not stop here.
Specialists Frank Ralls and Madeleine Grigg-Damberger write in Parasomnias that sleepwalkers may appear concomitantly awake and “not there” to anyone witnessing their actions.