About 10 percent of the U.S. population is dealing with a very serious type of sleep disorder, making their bed the last place they want to be.
Parasomniacs, as they're called, can sometimes engage in dangerous behaviors acted out during sleep.
Doctors say these disorders can affect people of all ages, and may be caused by a variety of triggers from stress to a sheer lack of sleep.
A number of people are simply scared of falling asleep.
"Some of them come to dread their bed," says Kenneth Weeks, MD, who is a sleep medicine specialist at Presbyterian Sleep Health Charlotte in North Carolina.
They are fearful of the deviant or dangerous things they might do shortly after dosing off, and then not being able to remember it when they wake up.
"They will frequently swing and punch, and reach for their loved one to try to protect them, and then they'll both get hurt," Weeks says.
Sleep punching, also known as sleep violence, occurs when the brain fails to tell the body to stay paralyzed during the deepest part of sleep.
This allows the sleeper to ‘act out' their dreams by yelling, kicking or jumping out of bed.
According to scientists, a surprising number of sleep punching sufferers later develop Parkinson's disease. Treatment ranges from behavioral therapy to medication.
As for their scared spouses, doctors recommend removing all sharp objects from the bedroom and keeping a sleep log of your spouse's aggressive attacks during the night.
This could be a helpful tool for diagnosing cases of sleep sex or unwanted come-ons when a bed partner is completely conked out.
Stress, drugs, alcohol or other sleep disorders are all potential causes of sleep sex, which ranges from groping to almost rape.
In some cases, spouses, children and relatives are told to lock their bedroom doors until the patient is treated.
A locked door or door alarm is also suggested for sleep eating.
"Perhaps, the greatest danger is falling down a flight of stairs," Weeks points out.
Sleep eaters usually suffering from stress will walk to the kitchen and, while deep asleep, will dine on everything from last night's dinner to cleaning liquids.
"The next morning, the family members find it, but they don't remember anything about it," Weeks says.
Eating a balanced, day-time diet, medication and locking up dangerous food and appliances can treat sleep eating.
If ignored, it can lead to weight gain, bizarre cuts and burns from cooking or eating something they're allergic to.
Although rare, perhaps the riskiest of all sleep disorders is sleep driving.
This occurs when a person gets out of bed, sits behind the wheel and drives onto the road while still asleep.
Several cases have been linked to insomnia drugs, so talk to your doctor before taking any of these medications.
Regardless of what the sleeping person is doing, experts say you should be careful not to abruptly awaken a parasomniac in action.
Instead, gently lead them back to bed and make arrangements to consult with a sleep doctor as soon as possible.
Doctors say it's important for a spouse to accompany a sleep disorder patient when seeking a diagnosis. A spouse's account of what's happening at night could be critical in obtaining an accurate diagnosis of what's wrong.
The following information is from Kenneth D. Weeks, MD, who is a sleep medicine specialist at Presbyterian Sleep Health in Charlotte, NC.
The following information is from the Cleveland Clinic's website (Source: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/sleep_disorders/hic_parasomnias.aspx).
The following information is from the National Sleep Foundation in an online article entitled, "Sleep and Parasomnias" (Source: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/ask-the-expert/sleep-and-parasomnias).
The following information is from a feature about sleep disorders on the website Medscape.com (Source: --http://www.medscape.com/features/slideshow/sleep-disorders).
The following is from an ABC.com article entitled, "Why Sleep Disorder Sufferers May Beat Up Bedmates" (Source: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/DrJohnson/story?id=125388&page=1).
The following article is from WebMD in an article entitled, "REM Sleep Behavior Disorder" (Source: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/rem-sleep-behavior-disorder).
The following information is from WebMD in an article entitled "'Sleep Sex' Unromantic, Even Dangerous'" (Source: http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/sleep-sex-unromantic-even-dangerous).
The following information was obtained from The Washington Post (Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/14/AR2007031401027.html)
The following information is from the American Sleep Association's website in an article entitled, "Sleep Eating" (Source: http://www.sleepassociation.org/index.php?p=sleepeating).
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