Lurking Sleep Problems

By Clinton Marquardt - Sleep & Fatigue Specialist

November 2, 2008

better sleep, children's sleep, fatigue, other disorders, senior's sleep, shift-work, sleep and aging, sleep tests

Many people feel tired all day long. When asked “Why?” they normally say that they sleep very lightly or that they don’t sleep well. But that is as much as they know. In reality, there could be one of almost 90 underlying sleep problems influencing their daytime fatigue.  Here are some of the lurking problems that can snatch your sleep along with quotes from bed-partners:

“I found her in the forest by the pond at 2 am! She had been bitten on her bottom by a rodent.”
Sleep Walking:  Sleep walkers often act very strangely while they sleep. Some may simply sit up in bed and look around while others will actually get up and walk around. Some sleep walkers have even been known to run away from people trying to help them. They look like they are totally awake, but they are not; and to the sleep walker it may seem like they are fleeing from suspected persecutors.

Also known as somnambulism, sleep walking occurs during stages 3 and 4 sleep. Sleep walkers are difficult to awaken and if you can wake them up they are often confused and have no recollection of what just happened. Sleep walking is most common in children between the ages 4 and 8. When children sleep walk, it is often related to a full bladder. That’s why you will often catch them peeing in the closet. Sleep walking is much less frequent in adults as it usually subsides during adolescence. Although rare incidents of complex behaviours such as murder and suicide during sleep walking have been reported, the most dangerous aspect of this disorder is injury to the sleep walker because they are usually clumsy or to those attempting to awaken a confused and frightened sleep walker.

“The words she spoke were all lies and gibberish.”
Sleep Talking: Also known as somniloquy, this disorder may run in families. Most sleep talkers are not aware they are talking in their sleep. Sleep talking occurs in all stages of sleep but it is more common during REM sleep. While nightmare suffers are prone to sleep talking, it can also occur in conjunction with obstructive sleep apnea, REM sleep behaviour disorder and sleep terrors. Contrary to popular belief, the sleep talker does not always tell the truth.

“He looks like he is always fighting in his dreams.”
REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder (RBD): RBD is a relatively rare sleep disorder and it is mostly seen in males over the age of 60. It is characterized by an absence of muscle inhibition during REM sleep. It is natural to lose all muscle tone during REM sleep, but if you don’t, it means you can still move. RBD suffers keep their muscle tone in REM sleep and can therefore act out their dreams. It often results in serious injuries to the person with RBD and bed partner. Just imagine how you would feel acting out one of your dreams while lying in bed.

“I could hear terrible crunching sounds from the other room.”
Bruxism:  This is the term used to describe teeth grinding during sleep. It is most common in stage 2 sleep. The sound can be quite loud and the action can damage teeth. Some theories relate bruxism to stress but at the moment it is still a theory. In all cases, the teeth need to be protected. Anti-snoring mouthpieces do a great job of keeping teeth from wearing out.


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