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RF: The language of lost sleep | Pamdemonium
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RF: The language of lost sleep

June 14, 2010

Perhaps if Random Fact had explored sleep disorders as planned on Sunday, the author would have gotten some sleep Sunday night. Instead, the mind could not rest.

This doesn't work for me.

No doubt the sleeplessness was a form of environmental insomnia – too hot, too much caffeine, too much of everything. The International Classification of Sleep Disorders, Second Edition, documents at least 80 official sleep disorders, including several forms of insomnia. Honestly, though, those who name the disorders should take a cue from the paint color people and work on their descriptions. The names of some sleep disorders are amusing, unless of course you suffer from one of them. Still, Random Fact cannot resist.

Take, for example, “exploding head syndrome.” The head doesn’t really explode. Those with this disorder imagine hearing a loud noise just before they fall asleep and describe the sound of cymbals clashing, a bomb exploding or simply a loud bang without any pain. Some people think they are having a stroke, though exploding head syndrome is usually painless. These episodes cause stress and fear and might in fact happen more often when someone is under stress or very tired. The average age of onset is 58.

I am not personally familiar with this one. Yet.

Nor the next: Confusional Arousal. Stand down, it is not what you think. With this disorder, people act strange and confused, with slow speech, poor memory and blunt responses to questions. They seem awake but foggy, and a confusional arousal can last for minutes or hours. Such people don’t seem to remember these episodes. This sounds much like Shaun before he has coffee but I don’t think it is the same thing.

Adults with this disorder become hostile and aggressive, though such extreme reactions are rare. Typically, these episodes occur in the first third of the sleep cycle. Another version is severe morning sleep inertia, also called “sleep drunkenness,” which occurs upon waking, and affects teens and adults.

Both Confusional Arousals and Exploding Head Syndrome are parasomnias, or unwanted events that come with sleep. Nightmares are another parasomnia but a nightmare usually involve a scenario with grave danger and must wake you up. Bad, freaky, disturbing dreams that don’t wake you up are not nightmares. Sleep terrors are not nightmares but a separate disorder.

Other tidbits:
●Ten per cent of snorers have sleep apnea, which causes them to stop breathing up to 300 times a night and increases their risk heart attacks and strokes.
●The idea that people need less sleep as they get older is a myth. Experts recommend 7 to 9 hours a night for the average adult.
●Other primates, including chimps, rhesus monkeys and baboons, get about 10 hours of sleep.
●Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05 percent.

No wonder my quality control falls off when I work too much. I’ve been researching sleep disorders for a project with Volunteer State Community College and creating a new website for students interested in health-related careers, including sleep disorder technologists. The site goes public in July.

With that, to bed I must go.



Ruby June 15, 2010 at 1:07 pm

This is interesting stuff. Reminds me of a childhood friend who has been dealing with insomnia most of her life. She’ll get up and read for most of the night. So as I see her as exhausted, she now sees herself as in her regular (coping) mode and with an outstanding collection of novels read.

Now, the nightmare part, that involves some of the work one of my clients does. That’s a whole other lotta-going-on.

admin June 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Thanks, lady. Personally, I think the line between bad dreams, nightmares and night terrors is not so clean-cut. Either way, it is a whole lotta-going-on. The really scary disorder is Fatal Familial Insomnia, for which no cure exists, and you basically cannot sleep and usually die within 7 to 36 months or so. It is really REALLY rare, some 100 people in the world estimated. Glad the Clan doesn’t have THAT one.

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