Scary facts about sleep: 6 things that can happen during the night

January 13, 2021 3 mins read
Scary facts about sleep: 6 things that can happen during the night

Sleep is an essential part of our life, just like we breathe so do we need sleep to survive, but did you know that there are some scary facts about sleep – and what could happen when we dip into slumber?

What really happens when we lie unconscious as our brains shift into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep? Is it all good or are there things we do that once waking, we have no recollection of? These are the scary facts we’re about to uncover.

1. You may be sending out texts

Have you ever woken the next morning to find that that you have been replying to messages with no recollection of doing so? Sleep texting, just like sleepwalking, and sleep talking, occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep when our brains are most active.

If you sleep with your phone next to your bed, you may be more likely to be aware of a text coming in, and because we have a reflex to respond, this may be an autopilot response during sleep.

Word to the social media addicts, it may be time to banish the phone from the bedroom before you send out a sleepy tweet.

2. You could stop breathing (just for a second or two)

It’s most definitely a scary thought that during sleep we could stop breathing… Sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects just under 1 billion people globally.

It is a condition that causes your throat muscles to relax during sleep which can see you stop breathing for short periods. If you wake up gasping for air or from snoring and feel wiped out during the day, this could be a sign that you may have sleep apnea.

3. You lose your sense of smell

Did you know that when you’re asleep, you lose the ability to smell? (Scary right?) The deeper someone sleeps, the harder it is to wake them by smells. That is why keeping smoke detectors in your home is a vital aid in sensing danger as you probably won’t wake to the smell of smoke.

4. You feel like you’re falling

We’ve all felt it, that sense of falling or rapid drifting as we’re slipping into sleep. This happens during the transition between wakefulness and sleep and is often accompanied by a rapid twitch or jerk.

Known as the hypnic jerk, it is an involuntary twitch associated with rapid heartbeat, fast breathing, and sweating. This is felt when your body has fallen asleep, but your subconscious is still transitioning, which may cause alarm as your body shifts into a slight paralysis before your mind can catch up.

5. You may visit the fridge

If you feel like you may be a nocturnal nosher, you could be experiencing another type of parasomnia (a sleep disorder) called sleep-related eating disorder (SRED). This disorder is often associated with sleepwalking.

People with SRED will often be found in the kitchen preparing food without any recollection of doing so. And what’s scarier is that it can be dangerous as you may even eat inedible substances or concoct strange food combinations.

6. You could act out your dreams

Another scary parasomnia (perhaps the scariest), REM sleep behaviour disorder is a condition where you could start physically acting out your dreams and nightmares. This can see you getting up in the night interpretive-dancing and singing out your dreams while you are in a REM dream state. From running from monster nightmares to climbing on the cupboard to reenact flying, there are no limits to your bedroom stage. The scary part? Self-harm in this state has no limits.

Although these scary facts may seem daunting, most of them stem from sleep deprivation and not getting the required 7-9 hours of sleep. By practising good sleep hygiene habits, you can look forward to sweet (uninterrupted) dreams.