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Weird Things that Happen While You Sleep

November 26, 2018 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

By Nilong Vyas,  MD

During sleep, the body goes through multiple transitions and ‘duties’ while it extricates cells which have gone rogue and ‘cleans house.’ While the body may seem to be ‘sleeping,’ a term that is synonymous with lying still and resting, the actual body has other things on its mind! 

Some people, as they are falling asleep, experience an involuntary jerking motion (hypnagogic jerk or sleep myoclonus, medically speaking). There are multiple theories as to why this occurs in 70-80% of people as they are falling asleep and all of them are completely normal and not worrisome unless it creates anxiety or prevents one from sleeping deeply. Myoclonus may be a symptom in more complex sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome and may require treatment by a medical professional. However, the predominant occurrences are completely normal and of no concern. One theory states that the jerks are due to a primate reflex that is still present to this day as a protective measure in case the body (in its primate state) needs to be protected from falling out of a tree as it’s falling asleep. Another theory exists that as the body is transitioning from alertness to sleep, the nerves can ‘misfire’ and cause the body to jerk. Sometimes this causes wakefulness for its host but most of the time, sleep surpasses it.

For others, their teeth grind while they are sleeping. This is medically termed bruxism. It is estimated that 8% of adults and 33% of kids grind their teeth at night. More often than not, bruxism is not harmful and can be considered normal but it can eventually lead to dental damage, facial pain, and disturbed sleep if it occurs on a regular basis. If this occurs, a teeth guard made by a dentist is helpful. Also, decreasing stress in one’s life and improving sleep hygiene (getting adequate and good quality sleep by improving the sleep environment) is also helpful in eliminating or decreasing episodes of bruxism. 

Sleep paralysis is a ‘condition’ that can occur when one is waking up. When sleeping, the muscles relax in a paralytic type state. However, upon waking, it is required to come out of that state and move freely. If experiencing sleep paralysis, it causes an inability to move arms, legs, body, and head even though you are awake and aware of what’s happening. It can be quite frightening until it ends in a few minutes or seconds. Sleep paralysis can appear in the teen years or in the 20s and 30s. It is not a serious medical risk unless it occurs so frequently and creates anxiety around sleep and thus diminishes the quality of sleep. 

So much is being discovered about sleep on a daily basis as more research is being conducted. If you experience some of these ‘conditions,’ although they can be normal if they are affecting the quality of your sleep, the length or restfulness of sleep, then it is worth discussing it with your health care provider. One thing that can be done before seeking medical help is to improve your sleep hygiene. This specifically means getting to sleep at an appropriate time that is almost the same every night, waking up at a similar time every morning, setting up a proper environment for sleep that is relaxing and comfortable, and decreasing substances used to get to sleep or eliminating substances that prohibit sleep (alcohol). 

Of course, if you need personalized information for your specific issue or condition, contact us at www.sleeplessinnola.com for a free 20-minute consultation.

About the author: Dr. Vyas is a mom of two children and the founder and owner of Sleepless in NOLA sleep consulting, in New Orleans, LA.


The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.