the sleep hub parasomnia

Night Terrors; what are they and how can they be treated?

night terrors

Night terrors are a very upsetting sleep disorder which can affect just about anyone of any age; they are however most common in children between the ages of 3 and 12 and also in young adults between the ages of 20 and 30.

 Night terrors are not the same as an ordinary nightmare but are much more severe in their presentation. Most of us have either experienced an ordinary nightmare or comforted a child as they wake up from a distressing dream but a night terror is far more dramatic and upsetting and presents itself as such. Those who experience them often have no memory of them the next day but during a night terror they can be found to be screaming hysterically and sometimes physically fighting those who try to calm them.


During a night terror, the person suffering will appear to be awake but be unable to focus normally; they do not appear to see the person trying to help them and have a “glazed” expression. This can of course be very distressing to witness and parents in particular feel helpless and upset that they cannot assist their child. It should be remembered however that night terrors are not uncommon and they do not show symptoms of any underlying mental disorder or disease. If your child or indeed you, are suffering from night terrors, read on to learn more about this common condition.


Why do night terrors happen?

During sleep, people go through various stages of slumber; the deepest stage is the one in which night terrors occur. As we sleep, our brains pass through a number of phases of activity. When we are dreaming we’re in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and then after this stage, we pass into another, deeper stage where we are still and quiet. Once this stage passes, we move again into a lighter form of REM and it is this transition which is to blame for night terrors.


This period where we are most at risk of night terrors usually happens around three hours after we have fallen asleep. Children and young people can sometimes have difficulty with the transition and as a result become terrified and distressed for no apparent reason. Often parents report their child suddenly sitting up, crying, shaking and screaming; they may gasp for breath or have a rapid heartbeat and some appear to swipe at nothing as though they are being attacked. Talking, hugging and waking don’t seem to work and the child often continues to show distress for some time until suddenly, the symptoms disappear and the child sleeps peacefully once more.


Should I worry about night terrors?

No…night terrors are very normal and they don’t last for long….the main point to remember if you or your child is suffering from night terrors is that while they are distressing to watch, they don’t indicate any problems and children will not remember them the next day. To calm your child, talk to them gently and stay near them; most will simply lie back down and sleep peacefully after a few minutes of distress.

kleine levin syndrome

Kleine Levin Syndrome

Kleine Levin Syndrome

kleine levin syndrome


Teenage boys are renowned for having their ups and downs; they’re often to be found suffering from mood swings and a variety of the unsettling symptoms of puberty which can make them difficult to live with; but not all teenage boys are simply going through issues brought about by their age…some may be suffering from Kleine Levin Syndrome.


Kleine Levin Syndrome is a rare disorder which affects mainly male teens; the main symptoms consist of an insatiable appetite for sleep known as hyper-somnolence and also behavioural difficulties and cognitive disturbances. Some boys are also found to suffer from hyper-sexuality in addition to the other more common symptoms.


Kleine Levin Syndrome tends to make its appearance sporadically….one day the teenager is fine and then the next they’re in the throes of an “attack” which can go on for anything from a week to two months. There has been plenty of research into the condition but experts cannot as yet agree on a cause for the upsetting problems which ensue for those who suffer from Kleine Levin Syndrome.


How does Kleine Levin Syndrome affect people?

Current research indicates that the syndrome makes its appearance most commonly during the winter months with December being the riskiest month. Often, boys will experience a brief illness before it happens…an infection or general run-down feeling is usually reported. After this, sufferers feel a strong urge to spend most of their time in bed and wake only to eat or visit the bathroom.


When challenged or encouraged to get dressed and participate in life, sufferers can become aggressive and upset. Another and more upsetting symptom is one which affects the speech of the boys; many become monosyllabic or speak in short and disjointed sentences while others seem to regress in their speech and become like much younger children in their patterns of communication or begin to slur.


Once the episode is over, sufferers often have no memory of the events preceding the attack and no memory of anything which occurred during it.


Some other upsetting symptoms can occur during an attack of Kleine Levin Syndrome and these include overeating as well as using obscene language and displaying inappropriate sexual behaviour. Although females do sometimes suffer from the syndrome, they are not often diagnosed with it and they do not usually display the same symptoms as males…most especially the sexual behaviour.


Diagnosing Kleine Levin Syndrome

It is very difficult to diagnose Kleine Levin Syndrome because the symptoms can mimic depression and many people assume that their children are “low” or going through a typical teenage phase. Unless the more severe symptoms are displayed, it can be missed and sufferers will usually come out of the attack with no damage done to themselves. It is however important to get a diagnosis as medical intervention can certainly alleviate the symptoms which can have a severe effect on family life and sometimes mood stabilising drugs will be prescribed.


Kleine Levin Syndrome is not a disorder which will continue to affect sufferers and after it has run its course, it will disappear never to return again. Research into the disorder is ongoing and because of its rarity, professionals will usually be very interested in any cases which do crop up.



Hypnagogia; a Mysterious and Misunderstood Sleep Disorder

Hypnagogia; a Mysterious and Misunderstood Sleep Disorder



Hypnagogia; a Mysterious and Misunderstood Sleep DisorderThe short space of time before we fall asleep is a strange one; it’s the time when we’re not quite in the world of the waking and not quite in the world of slumber…it’s the twilight zone if you like…that short window when nothing is quite concrete. Technically, this period of time is called “the hypnagogic state” and for those of us who experience the strange and confusing state, it can be extremely unsettling.


Some people report seeing realistic visions of people, disembodied faces, strange lights and geometric forms as well as hearing voices, music or even technological sounding “beeps” and tones. Others might seem to experience strange insights or upsetting emotions as well as feeling as though they are being hunted or pursued.


For those people who do suffer from this uncommon condition, it can be very distressing and some people dread falling asleep because their visions are so startling. While research into Hypnagogia is ongoing, scientists believe that experiencing it is just the mind’s way of getting rid of the day’s thoughts and feelings and that some patterns of behaviours can exacerbate it.


Drinking alcohol or taking drugs can make the condition much worse as can lack of sleep or general stress. Some sufferers report a lessening of symptoms once they learn what the condition is called and discover that far from being a paranormal event, it’s simply a neurological reaction to a variety of stimuli.


If you have ever woken up in a confused and frightened state due to thinking you can see, hear, sense or feel things which patently cannot be there, it is worth looking at Hypnagogia as the cause. Suffering from Hypnagogia interrupts sleep patterns and can result in extreme exhaustion as people try to avoid sleep or to help themselves sleep through alcohol and other means which ultimately worsen the condition.


Ways to lessen the symptoms of Hypnagogia

Firstly, stop drinking alcohol because drink can make the symptoms much worse as well as bring them on in the first place! Secondly, try to get a good sleep routine which does not vary from day to day. Choose a suitable time to go to bed and do not deviate from it. If you are suffering from stress in your day to day life, don’t underestimate how much this can worsen the symptoms of Hypnagogia and think about taking some regular exercise which is a proven way to help yourself de-stress and learn to relax.


Finally, keep your bedroom tidy and clutter free; avoid the mess and confusion which can add to the issues of seeing things which aren’t really there! A tidy room which is well organised is a good environment for sleeping in…a cluttered and untidy one is not!


If your symptoms do not ease with the above actions, see your doctor. It may be that you would be best advised to visit a sleep clinic where you can be observed sleeping and specialists can then advise you on the best course of action.



sleep start, sleep jerk, hypnic jerk, hypnagogic jerk

The Hypnic Jerk

sleep start, sleep jerk, hypnic jerk, hypnagogic jerk

You sink into your bed which feels extra warm and cosy. Your weary body thanks you for the sleep it is about to receive and you smile slightly to yourself as you begin to feel all the worries that were whirling round and round your head all day become less meaningful. Dreamy half-formed thoughts and images awash your consciousness as your breathing deepens. You are embracing the glorious state of relaxation that precedes sleep when you are crudely jolted what feels like a foot off your bed as though you just received a few thousand volts. Thanks a lot you hypnic jerk!


Also known as Sleep Starts, the Hypnagogic Massive Jerk, or the Myoclonic Jerk. These twitches occur during the transitional period between wakefulness and sleep that is known as The Hypnagogic state.


Little research has been done on this annoying, yet totally harmless anomoly, but studies suggest as many as 70% of the population have or will experience this at some stage in their life.


The most common hypothesis are:

  • The nerves misfiring as our brain changes our muscle tonus causing the muscles to jerk (technically known as Myoclonus) Just like a car undergoing a clumsy gear-change causing it to jolt forward
  • An evolutionary explanation is that the spasms are a primal reflex. The brain misinterprets the swift muscle relaxation for falling, causing our brain to alert our muscles to act fast thus jolting us into action.
  • One theory suggests the body is reacting to falling asleep in the same way a person may twitch when dying. The hypnic jerk being a reflex used to keep the body functioning.

Auditory and visual sleep starts

An auditory sleep start, also known as Exploding Head Syndrome, is less common than the hypnic jerk. A person hears a loud cracking or snapping sound coming from inside the head as they wake. Also reported are sounds like bomb going off, a gun shot, a doorbell (in my case) or some other indecipherable sound.

The cause is as yet unknown but in this article at Wikipedia some possibilities have been suggested; one is that it may be the result of a sudden movement of a middle ear component or of the eustachian tube, another is that it may be the result of a form of minor seizure in the temporal lobe where the nerve cells for hearing are located. Electroencephalograms recorded during actual attacks show unusual activity only in some sufferers, and have ruled out epileptic seizures as a cause.

A Visual Sleep Start is quite rare. It involves a blinding flash of light that awakens the sleeper. It can be accompanied by an auditory sleep start or can occur on its own.



 Hypnic Jerks tend to occur when a person is over-tired or is trying hard not to fall asleep. Some sleep experts say stress and fatigue can exacerbate the twitches, while caffeine and alcohol can increase the frequency; so if you are plagued by these spasms avoid them.

Magnesium and Calcium are known for their positive affects on muscles and may help if you are lacking. Dietary sources of magnesium include legumes, whole grains, vegetables (especially broccoli, squash, and green leafy vegetables), seeds, and nuts (especially almonds). Other sources include dairy products, meats, chocolate, and coffee. Water with a high mineral content, or “hard” water, is also a source of magnesium.

Good sources of Calcium include: dark leafy greens such as watercress and kale. Cheese, milk and yoghurt, broccoli, almonds and canned fish.

Get comfortable

People tend to report hypnic jerks occuring when they were not in a comfortable position. Ensure you have a decent mattress and bedding and of course good sleep hygiene and good bedroom ambience go hand-in-hand with trouble-free and good quality sleep.

Do you have experience of the hypnic jerk? If so please tell us how it affects you…


pickwickian syndrome

Pickwickian Syndrome


pickwickian syndrome

What is Pickwickian Syndrome?

If you suffer from a sleep disorder then you may have come across this oddly named syndrome which in medical circles is called Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome (OHS). OHS is a condition which affects people who are seriously overweight or obese.

Sufferers of Pickwickian Syndrome fail to breathe deeply enough or rapidly enough when asleep and this causes low blood oxygen levels and high blood carbon dioxide levels. Another side effect for some people is that they stop breathing completely for short periods; this is called sleep apnoea and combined, the symptoms cause extreme tiredness and result in a drastically reduced quality of life.

The effect of such disturbed sleep patterns is very serious and some people will eventually suffer heart failure as a result. The best course of action for those suffering from Pickwickian Syndrome is a serious weight loss programme under the guidance of medical professionals but in the meantime, there are other avenues to explore which may reduce symptoms and effects.

Nocturnal ventilation systems can help enormously with the symptoms of Pickwickian Syndrome and a machine called a CPAP (positive airway pressure) can be brought into the home to assist with breathing overnight. This is a course of action which is not taken lightly and the need for a CPAP machine is discussed with patients before they are issued with one and taught how to use it.

Signs and Symptoms of Pickwickian Syndrome

Snoring is the first and most common sign of sleep disturbance but when coupled with apnoea (short periods of breathing disruption) and extreme exhaustion during the daytime, it is common for GPs to explore the possibility of Pickwickian Syndrome. Another symptom is that sufferers begin to experience headaches which most commonly appear during the early morning.

A more visible symptom is that of edema (swelling due to water retention) in the legs. This is caused by the heart’s struggle to pump blood from the body through the lungs resulting in a pooling of fluid in the legs. Chest pains may also occur due to the strain which the heart is under.

Those suffering from Pickwickian Syndrome will experience a reduced quality of life which may also result in many hospital stays. The best and most effective treatment is weight loss and general practitioners will usually support this in any way that they deem suitable. A change of diet and an exercise regime is often prescribed when the patient is fit enough for this cause of action and in cases where the patient will not tolerate such a lifestyle change, surgery may be prescribed such as a gastric band.

Pickwickian Syndrome can seriously affect the lives of those suffering from it; not only are they permanently exhausted but they generally have trouble breathing and getting around so day to day tasks are hard to manage and this can result in depression and lethargy.

If you suspect that you are showing signs of Pickwickian Syndrome, speak to your GP without delay as the course of the disease can be halted and your life can be changed for the better with support from professionals.

Incase you are wondering where the name Pickwickian Syndrome came from, it was named after Joe, the fat, red faced boy who showed some of the traits in Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers.