Writer Jeffrey Bishara
They say sleep is the cousin of death –I’m not sure who they are –but how much do we really know about the effects of sleep deprivation? Not much is known about sleep, let alone sleeping disorders. There can be severe consequences for uneducated sleepless beings; fatal car accidents, low cognitive processing and the onset of psychosis accompanied by hallucinations, just to name a few.
Any sleeping disorder that involves abnormal movements, emotions, nocturnal epilepsy, perceptions and dreams during sleep are categorised as parasomnias. A person can fall so deeply into a skewed reality they may become somniphobic, meaning they’re afraid to fall asleep making their waking life a nightmare. Another critical sleep condition is sleep apnoea. A person unknowingly holds their breath whilst sleeping, and bruxism, which is when a person unknowingly grinds their teeth during sleep.
Whilst some disorders sound harmless, the consequences may be severe. An individual suffering restless leg syndrome cannot stay still due to continual aches and twitches in their legs. This syndrome results in symptoms similar to those of depression, and will leave an individual so tired they stop functioning. Beyond the mere physical, delving into demons or alien abductions can leave a person mentally crippled and physically paralysed.
During a condition known as sleep paralysis, people have often reported dreaming of alien abductions or demonic themes. During sleep the person becomes conscious, but remains in a sleep-like state and unable to move. Adversely, a more common condition called sleepwalking occurs when the body fails to produce muscle atonia – a chemical that prevents us from acting out our dreams. In a similar state, a person’s fantasies can play out sexually with their partners.
Sexsomnia is exactly that. People have been known to fondle their partners, masturbate and even perform oral sex, once they’ve gone to sleep. The condition is sometimes caused when individuals are too embarrassed to consciously perform these acts. In some extreme cases there have been reports of sexual assault and even rape. All occurring without the individual being aware, waking up with no memory of their sleep induced behaviour.
Luckily, my own experiences with sleep disorders are not severe. I’ve had night terrors and severe nightmares, my most impressive story includes myoclonic jerks. I awoke with no recollection, but according to my friend I appeared demoniacally possessed – shaking and talking in my sleep.
Sleep disorders often have underlying psychological or neurological roots. Most can be treated with therapy or medication – nocturnal epilepsy, for example, can be treated with anticonvulsants. Unfortunately, treatment can’t cure all sleep disorders.