Sleep problems come in many forms, from common conditions such as snoring and nightmares to unusual disorders such as sexsomnia. All sleep problems disrupt the normal sleep cycle, and many lead to other problems such as insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Night sweats are a common sleep problem. A person with night sweats may drench nightclothes or sheets with sweat while sleeping. Temperature sometimes triggers night sweats, but the condition can also be related to factors such as hormonal changes, infections and medications.
Night sweats often accompany menopause. While usually benign, in some cases night sweats indicate a more serious medical disorder such as cancer or nervous system problems. In all cases, night sweats can make sleeping difficult and uncomfortable.
Sexsomnia is a “parasomnia,” or an unwanted physical activity or behavior performed during sleep. Sexsomnia involves sexual activity performed while asleep.
People suffering from sexsomnia rarely remember sleep sex activity. Men seem more likely to suffer from sexsomnia than women, but the condition affects both sexes. Sexsomnia symptoms can cause embarrassment and serious misunderstandings with bed partners. Embarrassment over sexsomnia symptoms prevents some people from talking to doctors about the condition.
Night Eating Syndrome and Sleep Eating Disorder
Night eating syndrome and sleep eating syndrome are two different sleep problems. Sleep eating disorder describes a parasomnia where people eat while asleep. People with this disorder may eat unusual or strange combinations of foods, and have no memory of eating when they wake up.
Night eating syndrome causes compulsive overeating at night. Unlike people with sleep eating disorder, those with night eating syndrome are conscious of their behavior, though they may feel unable to stop it. A person with night eating disorder has little appetite in the morning, and often suffers from insomnia. Night eating syndrome appears to be common among people who are obese.
Nocturnal teeth grinding, or “sleep bruxism,” describes the clenching or grinding of teeth while asleep. Up to 8 percent of adults grind their teeth while sleeping, according to the National Sleep Foundation (2009).
Occasional teeth grinding is relatively harmless. However, chronic nocturnal teeth grinding can result in damaged teeth, jaw pain and jaw joint disorders. Like many sleep problems, the causes of nocturnal teeth grinding are unknown, although the condition seems to be linked to anxiety, stress and other sleep disorders.
Snoring is one of the most common of sleep problems, and may indicate the presence of a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. Snoring may also occur without an underlying cause.
Bed partners’ sleep may be disrupted by loud snoring. In some cases, snoring may drive bed partners into other rooms so they can sleep.
Almost everyone experiences occasional nightmares, or dreams that involve feeling of fear or terror. Anxiety and stress can increase nightmare frequency. More than one nightmare a week or nightmares that interfere with restfulness may be signs of an underlying health problem, such as anxiety.
Black, R. (2010). Scientists explore causes of new ‘sexsomnia’ sleeping condition in patients. Retrieved September 13, 2010, from http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/2010/06/07/2010-06-07_scientists_explore_sexsomnia_sleeping_condition__having_sex_while_sleeping__in_p.html.
Eating Disorders Online. (2010). Night eating. Retrieved September 13, 2010, from http://www.eatingdisordersonline.com/explain/nighteating.php.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Night sweats. Retrieved September 13, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/night-sweats/MY00576.
National Sleep Foundation. (2009). Teeth grinding. Retrieved September 13, 2010, from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/bruxism-and-sleep.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2010). Nightmares. Retrieved September 13, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003209.htm.