Under normal circumstances, sleep is rather a peaceful affair. Apart from the occasional tossing, turning and outbursts of snoring, most people make it through the night without anything unusual happening. But then there are the parasomnias. Think of the sleep cycle as being the process of falling asleep, being asleep and dreaming, and then waking. If there is any unusual change in movement during any of these stages, this is a parasomnia. We are all used to the idea of sleepwalking, but there is actually a range of unnatural movement (or the lack of it).
Sleep scientists distinguish two types of disorder depending on whether the movement occurs during rapid-eye-movement dreaming. The reason for this distinction is the increasing evidence of a link between REM disorders and degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease. There is an emerging theory that these disorders are associated with changes in the level of dopamine in the brain. Excessively low levels may explain violent movements. To an objective observer, this may seem like aggressive behavior, with thrashing aimed at those around. Those sharing the bed feel themselves victim of an assault. But the sleepers are completely unaware of the movements and have no intention of injuring their partner.
Just as there may be physical violence, there can also be emotional disturbance. The so-called night terrors inflict terrifying nightmares on those affected. At other times, there is a form of paralysis affecting those just falling asleep or waking up, and sleepingwalking may include a variety of different activities from eating to driving. There is a subtype, often called sexsomnia, in which people injure themselves or their partners with attempted sexual activities. One of the characteristics of the behavioral disorders is that the person’s eyes may be open. This is an intermediate state, neither fully asleep nor awake, and it is difficult to explain. Sleep scientists use EEGs to show the extent of brain activity during sleep. Particularly during REM, the levels of brain activity mirror the levels achieved during the waking hours. Since we now have real evidence of people performing complex activities such as driving while asleep, we must conclude that the brain allows the semiconscious repetition of habitual behavior. Unfortunately, as the chipped teeth in the morning show, this can include trying to eat frozen pizzas.
None of these sleep disorders is evidence of a mental illness. The fact that someone may appear to be violent during their sleep is not evidence of a violent personality. However, one slightly odd fact does emerge from the research. You might believe the use of ambien cr would knock someone out and make it less likely they would sleepwalk or behave in an odd manner. In fact, the reverse is true. People who have these disorders find the problems worse if they use any sleeping pill. If this applies to you, do not buy ambien online and self-medicate. Talk to your doctor and get a referral to a sleep center. Detailed clinical trials and off-label tests are being run with a variety of different drugs. Some of the results are encouraging and confirm that the use of sleeping pills is not the answer. Natural sleep is best with support from different drugs to suppress the behavioral problems.