Weird Sleep Disorders to Worry About While You Fall Asleep

Are you having trouble sleeping at night? Good, because we have some freaky information for you that's going to make it even more difficult! You see, there are a whole bunch of weird sleep disorders out there, ranging from the comical to the downright deadly, and would like to share them with you. And, obviously, the best time to read about these conditions is before bed, right? 

Now, before you start assuming these are all things like sleep walking, talking in your sleep, or insomnia, let's be clear: a few of these disorders are very rare and can definitely kill you. Some are painful, and some are distressingly life-changing as well. By the end of it all, you'll probably be wishing all these weird sleep conditions were just as minorly annoying and common as sleep talking. 

So, which of these weird sleep conditions did you already know about, and which are brand new nightmare fuel designed purely to make you afraid of closing your eyes? There's only one way to find out. 

  • This is a very rare disorder, but that doesn't make it any less terrifying. Fatal familial insomnia is a genetically inherited condition that impacts the brain and some parts of the nervous system. It starts with an inability to sleep and leads to very vivid dreams when you do sleep. From there, it progresses to high blood pressure, hyperventilation, and urinary tract dysfunction. Then, at last, you develop ataxia and die, usually within a few months or years from the onset of symptoms. The most terrifying thing is that there is no way to cure the disease or to even slow its progress. Any medicine your doctors give you will only make the symptoms easier to deal with. 

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    Sleep Paralysis

    Sleep Paralysis
    Photo: josemanuelerre / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0

    Imagine waking up and being completely unable to move. You can see, but maybe you can't even breathe, and your whole body is completely paralyzed. You might see a strange demonic creature sitting on your chest, or a dark, ominous shape looming over you. Then, all at once, you can move and breathe again, and you're fully awake and alert. And probably terrified. This is a reality for those with sleep paralysis.

    Though once linked to evil spirits, sleep paralysis is now thought to be a sign that your body isn't moving naturally through the normal stages of sleep. Though it's not actually harmful, it can be terrifying, stressful, and can occasionally be linked to psychiatric problems. The downside? There's no cure, though there are drugs and at-home remedies to help combat the issue so you can finally get a good night's sleep. 

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  • Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome
    Photo: light_arted / flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

    This is exactly what the title says it is, and it's no less terrifying than you might think. SUNDS, as it is called, is characterized by falling asleep, then just suddenly and simply dying of cardiac arrest before you wake up. That's it. It just happens. Though most common in southeast Asia and in those of southeast Asian descent, it can happen to just about anyone without warning, and upon examination, there is no cause of death found. There's no way to predict it when it will happen. No way to treat it. It just happens, whether you like it or not, and that's that. Luckily, this is a very rare occurrence, and studies on what genes it may be linked to are ongoing.

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    Night Terrors
    Photo: DeliriousAsian / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Nightmares suck, no one is going to deny that. But they have a much more severe, much more terrifying older brother called night terrors. What happens is that you may have a vivid nightmare, so vivid that it leaks over into the real world. You'll sweat, scream, flail, and sometimes even get up and walk around, while still mostly asleep, believing that these nightmares are real and you have to fight or escape.

    This is most common in children, and while most night terror episodes last only a few seconds, many can last minutes or even longer. Though drugs are usually not recommended for treatment, changing your sleep patterns and addressing underlying stress tends to help. 

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  • This is pretty much like talking in your sleep, the deluxe edition. During REM sleep, which is when most people dream, you might begin to act out various activities in your dream, such as flailing, speaking, or trying to perform tasks. Your movements may sometimes be violent, and your vocalizations might be frightening to those around you, and you might even punch your sleeping partner. In general, this might be pretty harmless (at least to you), but REM sleep behavior disorder is unfortunately tied to Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia. In other words, this sleep disorder could be an early warning sign that there's a severe neurological disorder on your horizon. 

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    This is one you've probably heard of before, as that condition where you fall asleep anywhere, anytime. That's part of it, but narcolepsy is actually a little more distressing than that. Unlike hypersomnia, in which you're sleepy all the time, narcolepsy is characterized by hallucinations, sudden sleep, loss of muscle control, sleep paralysis, and an irregular sleep schedule. There is no cure for the condition, as it is caused by a lack of hypocretin in the brain, but it can be treated to the point where people can have full and normal lives. And luckily, only about 1 in 2,000 people have narcolepsy. 

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