Nightmares are disturbing dreams associated with negative feelings, such as anxiety or fear. Nightmares are common. They may begin in childhood and tend to decrease after about age 10. However, some people have them as teens or adults, or throughout their lives.
Until age 13, boys and girls have nightmares in equal numbers. At age 13, nightmares become more prevalent in girls than boys. Nightmares seem real, often becoming more disturbing as the dream unfolds. But nightmares usually are nothing to worry about. They may become a problem if you have them frequently and they cause you to fear going to sleep or keep you from sleeping well. Nightmares are referred to by doctors as parasomnias — undesirable experiences that occur during sleep, usually during the stage of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). You’ve had a nightmare if: -Your dream wakes you -You feel scared, anxious, angry, sad or disgusted as a result of your dream -You can think clearly upon awakening, and can recall details of your dream -Your dream occurs near the end of your sleep time -Your dream keeps you from falling back to sleep easily
Children’s nightmare content varies with age, typically becoming more complex. While a young child might dream of monsters, an older child might have nightmares about school or difficulties at home.
Night terrors are episodes of fear, flailing and screaming while asleep. Also known as night terrors, sleep terrors often are paired with sleepwalking. Although sleep terrors are more common in children, they can affect adults. A sleep terror episode usually lasts from seconds to a few minutes. Night terrors are relatively rare, affecting only a small percentage of children — often between ages 4 and 12 — and a smaller percentage of adults. However frightening, night terrors aren’t usually a cause for concern. Most children outgrow night terrors by adolescence. Night terrors differ from nightmares. The dreamer of a nightmare wakes up from the dream and remembers details, but a person who has a night terror episode remains asleep. Children usually don’t remember anything about their sleep terrors in the morning. Adults may recall a dream fragment they had during the night terrors.
Like sleepwalking and nightmares, night terrors are a parasomnia — an undesired occurrence during sleep. Night terrors usually occur during the first third of the sleep period.
During a sleep terror episode, a person might: -Sit up in bed
-Scream or shout
-Kick and thrash -Sweat, breathe heavily and have a racing pulse -Be hard to awaken
-Be inconsolable -Get out of bed and run around the house -Engage in violent behavior (more common in adults) -Stare wide-eyed
Sleep apnea is a very serious of a condition and could be fatal. It’s not just about constantly feeling tired or snoring – both things people think they can just ignore and deal with. When you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing when you sleep. Depending on how severe your sleep apnea is, you could stop breathing hundreds of times a night. This disrupts your sleep cycle and prevents you from entering the deep stages of sleep where your body repairs itself. When your body can’t repair itself, your risk for other life-threatening conditions like stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and others is increased. It can also make you a drowsy driver, putting you at an increased risk for causing an accident and hurting yourself and others. Sudden cardiac death can also be a consequence of untreated sleep apnea. This could be because those with sleep apnea experience events called nocturnal ischemias, which happen at night while you sleep when your heart doesn’t get enough blood. These events tend to happen when the coronary arteries that supply blood to your heart become blocked or narrowed. Often the heart can get enough blood through these constricted arteries while you are sleeping, but it cannot cope under stressful events like the continued lack of oxygen you experience throughout the night when you suffer from sleep apnea. Treating sleep apnea could help reduce the risk for these life-threatening conditions, so talk to your doctor about any concerns you are having. Never dismiss feelings of constant fatigue as something you have to deal with by drinking an extra cup of coffee or your snoring as an annoyance your bed partner will learn to live with. Your body is trying to tell you something, so make an appointment to speak with your doctor.
Sleepwalking is classified as a parasomnia — an undesirable behavior or experience during sleep. Sleepwalking is a parasomnia of arousal, meaning it occurs during deep, dreamless (non-rapid eye movement, or NREM) sleep. Someone who is sleepwalking may: -Sit up in bed and open his or her eyes -Have a glazed, glassy-eyed expression -Roam around the house, perhaps opening and closing doors or turning lights on and off
-Do routine activities, such as getting dressed or making a snack — even driving a car -Speak or move in a clumsy manner -Scream, especially if also experiencing night terrors, another parasomnia in which you are likely to sit up, scream, talk, thrash and kick -Be difficult to wake up during an episode
Sleepwalking usually occurs during deep sleep, early in the night — often one to two hours after falling asleep. Sleepwalking is unlikely to occur during naps. The sleepwalker won’t remember the episode in the morning.
Sleepwalking episodes can occur rarely or often, including multiple times a night for a few consecutive nights. Sleepwalking is common in children, who typically outgrow the behavior by their teens, as the amount of deep sleep they get decreases.
Sudden unexpected death syndrome, or Sudden unexpected nocturnal death syndrome (SUNDS), or Sudden Unknown Death Syndrome, or Sudden Adult Death Syndrome is sudden unexpected death of adolescents and adults, often during sleep.
Sudden unexplained death syndrome was first noted in 1977 among Hmong refugees in the US.The disease was again noted in Singapore, when a retrospective survey of records showed that 230 otherwise healthy Thai men died suddenly of unexplained causes between 1982 and 1990: In the Philippines, where it is referred to in the vernacular as bangungot, SUNDS affects 43 per 100,000 per year among young Filipinos. Most of the victims are young males.
SUNDS has been cloaked in superstition. Many Filipinos believe ingesting high levels of carbohydrates just before sleeping causes bangungot.
It has only been recently that the scientific world has begun to understand this syndrome. Victims of bangungot have not been found to have any organic heart diseases or structural heart problems.
However, cardiac activity during SUNDS episodes indicates irregular heart rhythms and ventricular fibrillation. The victim survives this episode if the heart’s rhythm goes back to normal. Older Filipinos recommend wiggling the big toe of people experiencing this to encourage their heart to snap back to normal.
Polysomnography, also called a sleep study, is a test used to diagnose sleep disorders. Polysomnography records your brain waves, the oxygen level in your blood, heart rate and breathing, as well as eye and leg movements during the study.
Polysomnography usually is done at a sleep disorders unit within a hospital or at a sleep center. You’ll be asked to come to the sleep center in the evening for polysomnography so that the test can record your nighttime sleep patterns.
Polysomnography monitors your sleep stages and cycles to identify if or when your sleep patterns are disrupted and why.
The normal process of falling asleep begins with a sleep stage called non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. During this stage, your brain waves, as recorded by electroencephalography (EEG), slow down considerably. Your eyes don’t move back and forth rapidly during NREM, in contrast to later stages of sleep. After an hour or two of NREM sleep, your brain activity picks up again, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep begins. Most dreaming occurs during REM sleep.
You normally go through four to six sleep cycles a night, cycling between NREM and REM sleep in about 90 minutes. Your REM stage usually lengthens with each cycle as the night progresses. Sleep disorders can disturb this sleep process. Polysomnography monitors your sleep stages and cycles to identify if or when your sleep patterns are disrupted.
Your doctor may recommend polysomnography if he or she suspects you have: Sleep apnea or another sleep-related breathing disorder — your breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Periodic limb movement disorder — you involuntarily flex and extend your legs while sleeping. This sleep disorder is sometimes associated with restless legs syndrome. Narcolepsy — you experience overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. REM sleep behavior disorder — you act out dreams as you sleep. Unusual behaviors during sleep — you do unusual activities during sleep, such as walking, moving around a lot or rhythmic movements. Unexplained chronic insomnia — you consistently have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
The signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas overlap, sometimes making the type of sleep apnea more difficult to determine. The most common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas include: -Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia) -Loud snoring, which is usually more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea -Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep witnessed by another person -Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, which more likely indicates central sleep apnea -Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat -Morning headache -Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia) -Attention problems
During our waking hours, the body burns oxygen and food to provide energy. This is known as a catabolic state, in which more energy is spent than conserved, using up the body’s resources. This state is dominated by the work of stimulating hormones such as adrenaline and natural cortisteroids. However, when we sleep we move into an anabolic state – in which energy conservation, repair and growth take over. Levels of adrenaline and corticosteroids drop and the body starts to produce human growth hormone (HGH).
A protein hormone, HGH promotes the growth, maintenance and repair of muscles and bones by facilitating the use of amino acids (the essential building blocks of protein). Every tissue in the body is renewed faster during sleep than at any time when awake. Melatonin is another hormone produced to help us sleep. Secreted by the pineal gland deep in the brain, it helps control body rhythms and sleep-wake cycles.Levels of melatonin rise as the body temperature falls, to encourage feelings of sleepiness. The opposite occurs to wake us up. It is mostly during sleep that the sex hormone testosterone and the fertility hormones, follicle-stimulating hormone and leuteinising hormone, are secreted.
Panic attacks are intensely frightening events. They can hit you at any moment, and when they do they can completely wipe out your day. Many people find that the only time they get a break from either panic attacks or thinking about panic attacks is when they go to sleep.
But for some people, the fear doesn’t stop there. While not as common, some people experience panic attacks while sleeping. This terrifying event will throw you awake and cause you immense fear and distress, but as usual the only thing that’s wrong is that you suffer from anxiety. Not very much is known about precisely what causes panic attacks at night, but we know that the brain doesn’t turn off during sleep. It’s reasonable to assume that the process is pretty much the same as the process of a daytime attack, just that it happens in a less conscious manner. And the symptoms of a nocturnal attack are pretty much the same symptoms you get during the day.
A new study of men by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, has found that some insomnia symptoms are linked to a higher risk of death.
In a recent online issue of Circulation, they describe how they found that among men experiencing specific sleep problems – such as non-restorative sleep and difficulty falling asleep – there is a modest increased risk of death from heart-related problems. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of Americans. People with insomnia have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both, with the result that they do not get enough sleep and may not feel refreshed when they wake up. Previous studies have concluded that sleep is important for heart health, and many have linked poor or insufficient sleep with increased risk factors for cardiovascular-related diseases.