Sleep Disorders: Ain't We Got Fun?

I've been a long time sufferer of sleep paralysis. If you can't be bothered to click the link, it's basically when in the process of waking up, you regain consciousness and cognitive ability before motor functions leaving you momentarily and unexpectedly paralyzed. It often results in auditory/visual hallucinations as your brain tries to make sense of the feeling of being trapped, vulnerable and in danger despite the lack of any objective threat to the conscious mind, so it makes some shit up. It doesn't happen to me often, maybe a couple dozen times a year, but it is terrifying every time; I find myself simply shutting my eyes and waiting out the "wild animal that has jumped on my bed and is vigorously sniffing my neck and face and growling" or the "shadowy intruder kneeling by my bed whispering threats and hate speech an inch from my face." These moment last maybe a minute, but they feel like forever, particularly when instead of snapping to, I find myself falling back to sleep; I struggle to keep conscious for genuine fear of falling asleep with the hallucinations still in my room.

Lately, I've come to terms with my sleep paralysis and have even tried to maintain a clinical curiosity about it, challenging the hallucinations despite my brain setting off every klaxon at its disposal as it realizes neither fight nor flight is an option, so my brain decided to mix up its fuckery with a new issue: false awakenings. This has been both annoying and somewhat silly, both better than terrifying. It's just what it sounds like, a person gets up and performs several mundane, morning tasks... without ever waking up or getting out of bed. I'm a big fan of dreams that are fantastical, outrageous and fun to recall or read into, but these dreams are the antithesis of that. I "wake up" in my bed, get up into my room, brush my teeth and take a shower in my bathroom, etc. all without ever doing any of those things. I made it to MY car to go to work once before waking up! It's basically sleep walking without the walking. The other day, my girlfriend sent my a clearly annoyed "good morning" text around noon only for me to realize my morning ritual of texting her "good morning" when I wake up had actually never happened. Recently, I woke up while she was getting ready for work and had a full conversation with her about who was picking up her son after school that afternoon... yeah, never happened. This stuff is happening quite often, multiple times a week, sometimes multiple times in the same morning.

The mind is a funny thing. Anyone else have experience with these or other sleep disorders?

Not the same, but I get what are effectively night terrors despite being almost 40. Apparently the wolfmen come for you regardless of age. And they've got a pretty good idea of the layout of your house.

I only had sleep paralysis once but a lot more events on the false awakening front, I used to get chains of those, at least three in a row when I'd be trying to get up. It was a pretty tight loop too, I'd 'wake' up get out of bed, make it to the bedroom door and then be back in bed again. Again and again. It seriously made me doubt reality for a while. The other problem I have is distinguishing things that happened in dreams from things that happened in reality. I find myself wracking my brain trying to figure out if things really happened or if I only dreamt them. I feel weird asking people about it too, because I should know what's real and what isn't. It's probably more a memory problem than a sleep problem though.

Then there's the Deja Vu/Vaguely prophetic dreams. I get a lot of Deja Vu, and I always think, 'where did I see that before? Did I dream it?' I once predicted the result of the most recent Australian election when a few days before the vote I had a dream in which I was in a room with Scott Morrison and various other political figures celebrating the win. Shame there wasn't money riding on that, because everyone was tipping a Labour win.

Baffle2:
Not the same, but I get what are effectively night terrors despite being almost 40. Apparently the wolfmen come for you regardless of age. And they've got a pretty good idea of the layout of your house.

Ugh, I don't miss night terrors. At all. Just waking up really confused and upset and then not being able to find my way out of my bedroom because I'm too confused and disoriented to be able to navigate my way to a light switch or my bedside lamp. And then when I do manage to get out just sitting for 5-10 minutes crying inexplicably before I start to understand what's going on and calm down. Thankfully I haven't had one since I was 15, except for that time I woke up screaming when I was on antibiotics and dreamed that there were gross bugs biting the back of my neck, but that time wasn't the same.

False awakening, didn't know there was a term for that. Only rarely, but it's really annoying to have to wake up and get up several times in a row before it happens for real. Might possibly have gotten so tired after doing it a few times that when I did wake up, I went back to sleep and did it all over again a few times. Or that also might have been a dream.

Also really annoying when there's an incorporeal monster in my room that's creating darkness, so either I have to sneak crawl away or reach a light switch (or remote control for the TV I used to have) to create more light. Doing that more than once in a row gets old.

Voidrunner:
I only had sleep paralysis once but a lot more events on the false awakening front, I used to get chains of those, at least three in a row when I'd be trying to get up. It was a pretty tight loop too, I'd 'wake' up get out of bed, make it to the bedroom door and then be back in bed again. Again and again. It seriously made me doubt reality for a while. The other problem I have is distinguishing things that happened in dreams from things that happened in reality. I find myself wracking my brain trying to figure out if things really happened or if I only dreamt them. I feel weird asking people about it too, because I should know what's real and what isn't. It's probably more a memory problem than a sleep problem though.

No, I can attest, false awakenings are eerily realistic; you're memory has little-to-nothing to do with their ability to confuse. Most of my "normal" dreams consist of the patently absurd: impossible architecture, fantastic creatures, incredible places, supernatural abilities, etc. False awakenings are SO grounded in one's reality and routine, it's clear they're something more than REM dreams. My extremely limited understanding of the human brain notwithstanding, I think they're dreams occurring during the higher stages on the upcurve of a sleep cycle. Similar to the thoughts that race through your mind as you're going to sleep, I think we subconsciously have thoughts about what needs to preoccupy us when we wake up which is why they often involve the mundanity of morning routines.

I've tried to call them on their bullshit and recognize when I'm falsely awake, but my mind has figured that tactic out and adjusted to maintain the lie. I dreamt my girlfriend climbed back into bed after she'd gotten ready for work; I thought consciously "she doesn't do that,' and realized I was not awake and woke myself up for real to confirm. Next thing I know, she's standing by the bedside laughing saying she was trying to surprise me, so I sat up, picked up my cell phone to preemptively shut off my alarm, and I didn't recognize my phone's home screen, also, my girlfriend was gone... I was STILL asleep. I finally woke up, the room was empty, my phone was untouched and my girlfriend had left for work a half hour prior without waking me the same way she'd done countless times before. Fuck me...

Then there's the Deja Vu/Vaguely prophetic dreams. I get a lot of Deja Vu, and I always think, 'where did I see that before? Did I dream it?' I once predicted the result of the most recent Australian election when a few days before the vote I had a dream in which I was in a room with Scott Morrison and various other political figures celebrating the win. Shame there wasn't money riding on that, because everyone was tipping a Labour win.

Never had a prophetic dream, but if ever start having those along with paralysis and false awakenings, I'm going in for a sleep study if not an exorcism.

There are different neural circuits in the brain for wake, non-REM sleep and REM sleep. There are "switches" between the different states so that - in theory - you should move from one to another in a properly regulated fashion. Narcolepsy, for instance, is a fault (usually associated with irregularities in the signalling systems of a chemical called orexin) in one of these switches which causes sufferers to abruptly fall asleep.

Sleep paralysis is thought to be essentially where the person wakes, but the REM sleep circuit is still active. During REM sleep the motor nerves to the body are suppressed, so that when a person wakes with the REM circuit operating, they are unable to move. Dreams are also heavily associated with REM sleep, so the person also often wakes into a dreaming state that will seem much like a hallucination.

Dreams, incidentally, are thought to be the byproduct of forms of memory, cognitive and emotional processing that occurs during sleep (the brain is surprisingly active during sleep - plenty of long-term memory consolidation occurs during sleep, for instance). Obviously, as the neurones overseeing your cognitive function are busy working away, they will play out images and sensations, etc. to some extent which may be remembered.

Agema:
Dreams, incidentally, are thought to be the byproduct of forms of memory, cognitive and emotional processing that occurs during sleep

Well, that's worrying.

Baffle2:

Agema:
Dreams, incidentally, are thought to be the byproduct of forms of memory, cognitive and emotional processing that occurs during sleep

Well, that's worrying.

During sleep, this processing isn't necessarily going to take place in the same way your conscious mind would think about things, with the same sort of rationality, goal-orientation, or the same grounding in observed, ordered reality and causality. It might do things like flit from subject to subject - a memory here, a memory there; process various different things simultaneously that didn't occur at the same time in reality; add forms of imagination into the mix; etc. (I stress that precisely what the brain is doing during sleep is not that well understood.)

Much dreaming occurs in REM sleep. REM sleep is sometimes also called "paradoxical sleep" because the observed brain activity by EEG is more similar to wakefulness rather than non-REM sleep. However, it's also different - and perhaps in ways more "disordered" (I use that term as a simplification with substantial caveats) which might be consistent with the notion that it is not processing thoughts in the same controlled fashion as in consciousness.

Xprimentyl:

The mind is a funny thing. Anyone else have experience with these or other sleep disorders?

Yep, I have lived my whole life with sleep paralysis and it is the fucking worst.

That feeling of being trapped within yourself that suddenly makes breathing through your already asthmatic lungs difficult (though it wasn't a problem till you started thinking about it), the otherwise alien feeling that your own body is acting against you, summoning up the mental force to just move a little, just kick out your legs a bit and you know that will wake up the rest of you and make yourself your own again. You wait and you wait and... what, why are you waiting? Just kick, just a little kick, nevermind the dog has probably jumped out of her bed and decided to cuddle at your feet, she will forgive, just move your leg a little just a bit..... Not a fun thing and something that I had trouble explaining to people as a kid, although it seems widely understood now.

It's only in the last 2 years (oddly coinciding with other life circumstances) that this has become much less a thing and I have begun to see sleep as a good thing and not somthing to dread.

Agema:
snip

Mate, just tell me which cupboard the wolves are in and I won't open it.

That might not help though, because it's not always wolves.

That sleep paralysis thing seems really shitty to deal with. Double wammy with "winning" the lottery and getting another problem that sounds disturbingly like fighting with a "ghost" in your brain mocking you.

My issue is basically night terrors but it doesn't involve the post-dream or physical aspects. At unknown intervals, particularly after a series of bad sleeps or during a period of high stress, I will have a dream where I'm laying in bed and I will feel crushing fear. No monsters, shapes, or shadows, just horrendous gut wrenching terror. And then I wake up, instantly feel calm, and fall back asleep. It doesn't really effect my life, and I'd be tempted to dismiss it as a random nightmare, but its always the same thing and changes with my surroundings (went to bed in a hotel, dream of a perfect copy of the room plus fear) so I think its actually just something my brain does when under extreme stress.

The upside of it is once I get past the dream I actually feel really good the next day. So that's some kind of tradeoff.

Agema:

Baffle2:

Agema:
Dreams, incidentally, are thought to be the byproduct of forms of memory, cognitive and emotional processing that occurs during sleep

Well, that's worrying.

During sleep, this processing isn't necessarily going to take place in the same way your conscious mind would think about things, with the same sort of rationality, goal-orientation, or the same grounding in observed, ordered reality and causality. It might do things like flit from subject to subject - a memory here, a memory there; process various different things simultaneously that didn't occur at the same time in reality; add forms of imagination into the mix; etc. (I stress that precisely what the brain is doing during sleep is not that well understood.)

Much dreaming occurs in REM sleep. REM sleep is sometimes also called "paradoxical sleep" because the observed brain activity by EEG is more similar to wakefulness rather than non-REM sleep. However, it's also different - and perhaps in ways more "disordered" (I use that term as a simplification with substantial caveats) which might be consistent with the notion that it is not processing thoughts in the same controlled fashion as in consciousness.

Yeah, doesn't sleep also serve to store long-term memories with it's associative meanings and stress responses? Probably has an adaptive component as well(increases chances of survival). It's the conscious mind that revisits memories for different context and new meaning. But it needs to be imprinted into the neurons ofcourse.

Don't know if true but I believe if someone stays awake for like 2 nights after a traumatic event much(if not most) of the event will lose it's impact. The brain doesn't really get a chance to defer to long term memory. I guess stress responses to psychological injury are somewhat similar to the immune system with perceived pathogens in this regard. It often attacks without real consideration for the host. Whether it be ptsd or auto immune disease. Though, the mind can be more easily tricked.

Baffle2:
Mate, just tell me which cupboard the wolves are in and I won't open it.

Long and short of it, nightmares are usually an indication of someone anxious or stressed. Best treated by reducing the anxiety or stress.

In terms of being symptoms of other medical issues: anxiety disorders and depression, some sleep disorders (sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome, etc.), some medications and recreational drugs can also cause nightmares. These can sometimes be helped to some extent if the underlying disorder can be treated or changing medication.

stroopwafel:

Yeah, doesn't sleep also serve to store long-term memories with it's associative meanings and stress responses? Probably has an adaptive component as well(increases chances of survival). It's the conscious mind that revisits memories for different context and new meaning. But it needs to be imprinted into the neurons ofcourse.

Yes, plenty of long-term memory storage occurs during sleep.

Don't know if true but I believe if someone stays awake for like 2 nights after a traumatic event much(if not most) of the event will lose it's impact. The brain doesn't really get a chance to defer to long term memory. I guess stress responses to psychological injury are somewhat similar to the immune system with perceived pathogens in this regard. It often attacks without real consideration for the host. Whether it be ptsd or auto immune disease. Though, the mind can be more easily tricked.

Sleep deprivation has a rather negative effect on memory, yes - but both short- and long-term. The reason is probably that the neurones are "tired" - there's a theory that a major function of sleep is to reduce the build-up of harmful waste metabolites which impair the functioning of the brain. In the sense that traumas are to some extent based in the same learning and memory systems as everything else, yes, impairing memory formation - theoretically - may well reduce psychological trauma.

Agema:
There are different neural circuits in the brain for wake, non-REM sleep and REM sleep. There are "switches" between the different states so that - in theory - you should move from one to another in a properly regulated fashion. Narcolepsy, for instance, is a fault (usually associated with irregularities in the signalling systems of a chemical called orexin) in one of these switches which causes sufferers to abruptly fall asleep.

Sleep paralysis is thought to be essentially where the person wakes, but the REM sleep circuit is still active. During REM sleep the motor nerves to the body are suppressed, so that when a person wakes with the REM circuit operating, they are unable to move. Dreams are also heavily associated with REM sleep, so the person also often wakes into a dreaming state that will seem much like a hallucination.

Dreams, incidentally, are thought to be the byproduct of forms of memory, cognitive and emotional processing that occurs during sleep (the brain is surprisingly active during sleep - plenty of long-term memory consolidation occurs during sleep, for instance). Obviously, as the neurones overseeing your cognitive function are busy working away, they will play out images and sensations, etc. to some extent which may be remembered.

Do you mind if I ask if work in the mental health field in some capacity? I ask because you're obviously more capable of speaking to these things than I am, and they've boggled me for years; it's good to hear some reasonable explanations that both make sense and are easy to conceptualize. That's why I linked to the Wikipedia pages because I've tried explaining this to people before, but am never confident that my layman's terms are getting it right.

jademunky:

Xprimentyl:

The mind is a funny thing. Anyone else have experience with these or other sleep disorders?

Yep, I have lived my whole life with sleep paralysis and it is the fucking worst.

That feeling of being trapped within yourself that suddenly makes breathing through your already asthmatic lungs difficult (though it wasn't a problem till you started thinking about it), the otherwise alien feeling that your own body is acting against you, summoning up the mental force to just move a little, just kick out your legs a bit and you know that will wake up the rest of you and make yourself your own again. You wait and you wait and... what, why are you waiting? Just kick, just a little kick, nevermind the dog has probably jumped out of her bed and decided to cuddle at your feet, she will forgive, just move your leg a little just a bit..... Not a fun thing and something that I had trouble explaining to people as a kid, although it seems widely understood now.

It's only in the last 2 years (oddly coinciding with other life circumstances) that this has become much less a thing and I have begun to see sleep as a good thing and not somthing to dread.

I guess I'm fortunate that my paralysis only became a thing about 10 years ago; I couldn't imagine having to have endured it as a child. I think of every time a child cries that there's a monster in the closet and the parents just dismiss it as a bad dream. My God, I couldn't imagine how that could scar a child, to experience something that real, unnatural and terrifying only to have the parents tell them to go back to sleep.

My very first instance was my most intense and horrifically memorable. I awoke to see a head with long black hair turned away from me on the pillow next to me. Some guys might think they got drunk at the bar and brought a chick home, problem was, I neither went to the bar the night before nor is that kind of behavior my modus operandi. Next, I realized I couldn't move; I instantly went into panic mode which grew exponentially because I couldn't fucking move. Then the head next to me rolled over to reveal not a face, but a skull singed black like it'd been in a fire; I still couldn't move or make a sound. The skull started screaming at me, louder and louder; it was so loud my ears were ringing and it felt like my head was going to pop. I'd never felt a fear, an utter terror, that intense in my life and I was completely unable to escape it. After about 30 seconds, it all stopped. I was able to move and the skeletal intruder was gone. I jumped out of bed, turned on every light in my apartment, lit a cigarette and called my mom back home in Ohio at like 4am. I was freaking out; I thought maybe I'd gotten a sign that something terrible had happened, ANYTHING, that might rationalize what I'd just experienced even though I don't believe in those sorts of things.

Yeah, a grown man called his mommy because he had a nightmare, and you know what she told me? "it was nothing, go back to sleep." Bitch...

I've experienced sleep paralysis a few times (fewer than 5 times in my life) and found it invariably terrifying.

Other than that, just very common anxiety dreams, not a sleep disorder really.

Xprimentyl:
Do you mind if I ask if work in the mental health field in some capacity? I ask because you?re obviously more capable of speaking to these things than I am, and they?ve boggled me for years; it?s good to hear some reasonable explanations that both make sense and are easy to conceptualize. That?s why I linked to the Wikipedia pages because I?ve tried explaining this to people before, but am never confident that my layman?s terms are getting it right.

I'm a neuroscientist by scientific career, I did research on sleep for a few years. I was investigating at a very small level - the activity of a specific chemical involved in sleep regulation, and I also teach a couple of hours on the biology of sleep on a neuroscience module at my university.

Xprimentyl:
I?ve been a long time sufferer of sleep paralysis.

Could be worse, I have a history of somnambulism and night terrors, in combination. The extra fun kind of night terrors where you have no recollection at all. So I would go to sleep and wake up heart pounding, soaked in sweat, sometimes screaming something that I lost mid-word in a different place than I went to sleep.

It runs in my family, specifically among the men on my mother's side of the family.

Once I woke up in my car, looking like I half-assed tried to get dressed and with my car keys sitting on the floorboard.

It happened when I was a small child, quieted down until puberty, spiked big time during puberty and has gradually gotten less common and less severe since. The car incident happened in my early 20s.

I don't dream..or if I do, I don't remember ANY of it. Not since I left my teens.
I think that counts as some sort of disorder, right?
There's also the fact that I can sleep through anything, but still come out of it, if someone or something concerns me specifically.
Screaming kid? Chainsaw cutting down tree? Barking dogs? crowing rooster? No problem.
My phone gets an SMS? Knocking on a window/my front door? whispering my name @ me? I'll be right with you in a sec.

I've had sleep paralysis only once in my life. The same time as my single panic attack.
It was a tough time at work, and what it entailed at the time.

What I remember from my childhood dreams, is that they were pretty repetitive.
Interspersed with some Deja Vu ones.

I'm someone with obstructive sleep apnea. While I've been able to treat it through a combination of weight loss and use of a CPAP machine, it means that any sleep I have without said machine is not nearly as restful.

No sleep paralysis though. In fact, I have the opposite problem, of sorts: I flail around in my sleep to a great degree. Thankfully, I sleep alone so I do not disrupt anyone.

Vendor-Lazarus:
I don't dream..or if I do, I don't remember ANY of it. Not since I left my teens.
I think that counts as some sort of disorder, right?

You definitely dream, you're just not remembering them. It's not so unusual: I pretty much stopped remembering dreams in my early 20s.

Remembering dreams and the vividness of dreams varies quite a bit by person. I think you can sort of train yourself to try - we'll all wake up from dreams but they can disappear extremely quickly - have to concentrate on trying to remember them the minute you wake up.

Xprimentyl:

I guess I?m fortunate that my paralysis only became a thing about 10 years ago; I couldn?t imagine having to have endured it as a child. I think of every time a child cries that there?s a monster in the closet and the parents just dismiss it as a bad dream. My God, I couldn?t imagine how that could scar a child, to experience something that real, unnatural and terrifying only to have the parents tell them to go back to sleep.

My very first instance was my most intense and horrifically memorable. I awoke to see a head with long black hair turned away from me on the pillow next to me. Some guys might think they got drunk at the bar and brought a chick home, problem was, I neither went to the bar the night before nor is that kind of behavior my modus operandi. Next, I realized I couldn?t move; I instantly went into panic mode which grew exponentially because I couldn?t fucking move. Then the head next to me rolled over to reveal not a face, but a skull singed black like it?d been in a fire; I still couldn?t move or make a sound. The skull started screaming at me, louder and louder; it was so loud my ears were ringing and it felt like my head was going to pop. I?d never felt a fear, an utter terror, that intense in my life and I was completely unable to escape it. After about 30 seconds, it all stopped. I was able to move and the skeletal intruder was gone. I jumped out of bed, turned on every light in my apartment, lit a cigarette and called my mom back home in Ohio at like 4am. I was freaking out; I thought maybe I?d gotten a sign that something terrible had happened, ANYTHING, that might rationalize what I?d just experienced even though I don?t believe in those sorts of things.

Yeah, a grown man called his mommy because he had a nightmare, and you know what she told me? ?it was nothing, go back to sleep.? Bitch?

Huh, my quote notifications are not working.

Anyway, the skeleton-waking-nightmare aspect would be shattering. For me, it never manifested as a sense of there being someone else next to me (possibly because, growing up, there often was a dog there anyway) and just as being trapped within myself (which is bad enough without Grudge Skeletons).

I never even told my parents and was an adult before I even heard the term "Sleep Paralysis." I just thought it was a normal thing everyone had happen once in a while.

Agema:
Remembering dreams and the vividness of dreams varies quite a bit by person. I think you can sort of train yourself to try - we'll all wake up from dreams but they can disappear extremely quickly - have to concentrate on trying to remember them the minute you wake up.

I tried that this morning. And the weird thing is, I can remember having memories of specific details more than I remember the specific details themselves.

Something about a power struggle between groups of knights in a pseud-Medieval setting over influence and me getting my head stuck in a wall at one point.

Just going through the night and musing about...

I sometimes pretend to have "sleep problems", but in reality i just don't want to sleep... can't. I am indulging in anxieties and busy my thoughts with problems and fears so i don't have to sleep... Because the sleep is always too short and the morning wait on the other side.

I do this till i am exhausted, then sleep maybe for a bit and go to work... waiting for the evening so i can sleep... but i don't want to, because it brings me to the morning. Yearning for an eternal evening i can't have.

And yes, i am on a drugfueled "introspective" and just came off writing a 5-hour "stream-of-consciousness"-THING i used apparently for self-therapy...

Other themes: I vividly remember a few dreams where i was free and could glide (those are the best). Than i had a few HORRIBLE ones i used as inspirations for roleplaying and writing - i love my nightmares, i wish i had more- or remembered them. The last few years i think the dreams are getting more mundane in general... this frightens me more.

Tip: to remember more and (have more opportunities for good dreams), wake yourself up late in the sleep, then re-enter sleep for about 1 hour or so to wake again. The dreams in the last portion will be fresher and clearer and maybe a bit more coherent... you know with structure and so.

Yeah, sorry to unload here... but hey. Internet-weirdoes gonna weird, what you gonna do? (Other than be entertained)

CM156:

I tried that this morning. And the weird thing is, I can remember having memories of specific details more than I remember the specific details themselves.

Yeah, I find that fascinating. Remembering you rememberaed lots of detail about a dream, but not what that detail was.

On the other hand, perhaps its little from normal memory. There are lots of thigns we can remember we once knew a lot about but no longer do.

 

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