5 Sleep Disorders You Probably Didn’t Know About

sleep related eating disorder, what causes sexsomnia, exploding head syndrome, catathrenia treatment

We all have rough nights every once in a while, either because of our own sleeping habits, or because of our loveable sleep partner. By the time the sun comes around, we’re groggy and irritable, or hyper (just until we crash). These experiences are frustrating but normal. If they happen often or every night, though, they may be the indications of a sleep disorder.

There are a number of sleep disorders that aren’t commonly known to the general public and oftentimes go undiagnosed. Parasomnias, for example, encompass an entire group of sleep disorders that affect people’s ability to fall asleep, remain asleep, or wake up, and there are several parasomnias that are fairly unknown. Below are 5 Parasomnias you’ve probably never heard about.

1. Sleep-related eating disorder

This disorder doesn’t apply to people who sneak across the house toward the fridge at 3 a.m. – even if they do so often. A sleep-related eating disorder occurs during non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep and it affects people while they are still partially or fully asleep and cannot control their actions. During an episode, the disorder may cause the semi-conscious person to consume abnormal combinations of food in substantially large amounts. It is very difficult to wake a person who is experiencing a sleep-related eating disorder episode, and attempting to do so may even result in aggression or resistance. In the morning, the person may not remember the events of the night.

2. Sleep-sex (sexsomnia)

Unlike having sex dreams, which is fairly common, people who suffer from sleep-sex, or sexsomnia, may self-touch or try to be sexually intimate with others unknowingly. During these episodes, the person may be more aggressive, dominant, and uninhibited. Doctors aren’t sure what causes sexsomnia, but there are some factors they believe affect it, such as sleep deprivation, increased stress, and anxiety.

Common symptoms include:

  • Fondling or induced foreplay with partner

  • Pelvic thrusting

  • Masterbation

  • Behaviors that mimic sexual intercourse

  • Sexual intercourse

  • Spontaneous orgasm

  • Glassy, vacant eyes during episode

  • No memory of the event in the morning

3. Exploding Head Syndrome

Has anyone ever pranked you awake by making an obnoxiously loud, sudden noise over your head? Well, imagine waking up like that all the time. People who suffer from exploding head syndrome hear extremely loud noises when going to sleep or waking up. Some compare the sound to bomb explosions, gunshots, thunder, or fireworks. The episodes are relatively painless and short but they are nonetheless confusing and unnerving.

4. Catathrenia

Think of Catathrenia as a backward snore. Whereas snoring happens during inhalation, people who suffer from catathrenia, or nocturnal groaning, produce a loud groan during exhalation, usually followed by a snort or a sigh. These groans can last up to 30 seconds and can get very loud. Nocturnal groaning doesn’t happen with every exhalation and it usually comes and goes throughout the night in stretches of time, some as long as an hour. There are catathrenia treatments but generally, the disorder doesn’t affect the sleep of those who suffer from it and its cause is unknown.

5. REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Most people know of REM sleep as the part of the night where you get deep rest, which is mostly true. REM, or rapid-eye-movement, is typical during REM sleep, as well as irregular breathing, higher blood pressure, and a loss of muscle tone (paralysis). During REM sleep, one’s brain is highly active and often dreams. People who suffer from REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, never fully undergo the muscle tone loss therefore as they may act out their dreams. Dream-enacting behaviors include talking, yelling, punching, kicking, sitting, jumping from bed, arm flailing, and grabbing.

People who suffer from these disorders remain unaware of their actions unless a bed partner or roommate mentions it. For the most part, these parasomnias are treatable and manageable, so it’s important that more people know how to recognize the symptoms, either in themselves or in another. Getting a good night’s rest is essential to living a healthy life, don’t let parasomnias get in the way of that. If you feel that you or someone you know may be suffering from a parasomnia, schedule an appointment to speak to one of our physicians.