Strange sensations that happen while we are asleep
Posted Monday, October 14 2013 at 00:00
Have you ever gone to bed, and just as you fall asleep, you experience a feeling that you are falling off the bed? Some people think it is because of anxiety, but experts say this is just a normal feeling anyone can experience.
There are strange sensations we have felt while we are sleeping, and if you have not, at least you have heard some people talking about them. Usually, these are explained away with hearsay, superstition or myth. However, there are scientific explanations for these sensations.
You feel like you are falling off the bed
Although there is a strangely popular belief that this means a person is getting taller, it actually happens because of something called a hypnic jerk or hypnagogic myoclonic twitch.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine notes that there is a wide range of potential causes of this reaction, including anxiety, caffeine, stress, and strenuous activities in the evening.
According to a study on sleep disturbances in the Journal of Neural Transmission, a hypnic jerk occurs during the non-rapid eye movement sleep cycle and is an abrupt muscle action flexing movement, generalised or partial and asymmetric, which may cause arousal, with an illusion of falling. “You get more jerks at a younger age and they keep reducing as you get older.”The study says children between eight and 12 years experience four-to-seven jerks per hour, while elderly people between 65 and 80 years, can have one or two in an hour.
According to Marianne Middleton, clinical coordinator at the Lawrence Memorial Hospital Sleep Disorders Center, the occurrence of hypnic jerks can become cyclical.
The cycle occurs because, “If you lose sleep because you constantly jerk awake, you will become fatigued and may develop anxiety or worry about falling asleep. Close to 70 per cent of all people experience this phenomenon just after nodding off, according to a recent study at the Mayo Clinic.
You are awake but asleep
This is called sleep paralysis. It is said to be a hereditary disorder in which one experiences very frightening seconds or minutes of total body paralysis, with little respiration and eye movements according to the 2009 Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
A person who experiences sleep paralysis feels they are awake, even though they cannot move or speak. In addition to the immobility, the common symptoms include feeling choked or suffocated, hearing strange noises like footsteps and voices, seeing human beings or dark shadows, and feeling the presence of a person in a room. Although these symptoms often direct the victims to believe in ghosts, mistransmission of neural signals in the brain causes sleep paralysis.
When a person sleeps, their brain sends signals to inhibit any muscle contraction.
If they come into consciousness before the brain sends signals to activate muscle contraction, they cannot move their bodies, and consequently, they become ‘paralysed’.
In short, while your eyes know that you are awake and are therefore open, the rest of your body has not yet received that message from the brain and therefore it is still asleep.
The journal stresses that “the disorder itself is not harmful and will generally resolve on its own. No treatment is needed, but avoiding sleep deprivation, stress, and other precipitants may be helpful.”
Dizziness as soon as you wake up
“This usually happens because of an imbalance in the ear, especially in people who have had a cough or flu, or have suffered some sort of trauma to the head.
The infection causes an imbalance in the ear, which causes dizziness when a person moves their head,” Dr Vincent Karuhaga, a general medical practitioner explains.
A neurosurgery blog by the University of California San Diego Health System describes this condition as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), an “inner ear problem that results in short lasting, but severe, room-spinning vertigo.”