7 Weird Things That Can Happen While You Sleep

Find out why you sometimes feel like you're falling.

ByABC News
May 7, 2014, 11:40 AM
Strange things can happen when you hit the sack.
Strange things can happen when you hit the sack.
Getty Images

May 7, 2014— -- intro: Most nights, if you're lucky, sleep is a completely unremarkable event. But every so often you may experience bizarre behaviors that can leave you feeling completely confused--and perhaps slightly freaked out.

Not to worry. We asked sleep docs to decode some of the craziest things that can occur from the moment you close your eyes--and most of them are totally normal.

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quicklist: 1category: Weird Things That Can Happen While You Sleep title: Feeling like you're fallingurl:text: Also known as a hypnagogic jerk, it tends to happen as you're falling asleep.

Typically when you dream, your body is paralyzed, but sometimes you can start dreaming before your body is on "off" mode. With hypnagogic jerks, you might act out a dream like falling off a cliff, falling from the sky, or tripping, says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., Men's Health sleep advisor and medical director of the sleep center at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Virginia.

Why the falling? Researchers aren't sure.

"It's more likely to happen when you're overtired, sleep-deprived, or stressed," Dr. Winter says. "And your brain enters into sleep cycles more aggressively, but your body hasn't caught up."

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quicklist: 2category: Weird Things That Can Happen While You Sleep title: Sleep paralysisurl:text: You start to wake up in the morning and realize you can't move a muscle or speak. It can last from several seconds to several minutes, and it's completely terrifying.

Essentially, it's the opposite of what happens with hypnagogic jerks, where your brain wakes up before the paralysis that accompanies deep sleep goes away, Dr. Winter says. "You may feel like you can't breathe. Many people describe it as an elephant sitting on their chest. That's because all of the muscles that control your breathing except for the diaphragm are still paralyzed."

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quicklist: 3category: Weird Things That Can Happen While You Sleep title: Sleepwalkingurl:text: Most sleep-related behaviors are harmless. But sleepwalking can be a dangerous issue, since you can trip, walk into something, leave your house, and even get behind the wheel.

"With sleepwalking, you're coming out of sleep just enough for your body to move, but not enough for your brain to be awake," says Dr. Winter. That's why you probably have no recollection of your late-night jaunts.

The prescription sleep-aid Ambien has been linked to some of the more bizarre sleepwalking incidents including cooking, binge eating, and driving while zonked out. That's because even if you wake up during the night, the drug keeps your brain sedated so you're still in an unconscious state, Dr. Winter says.

If you experience unusual or dangerous nighttime antics and pop the sleeping pill, talk to your doctor about switching prescriptions.

quicklist: 4category: Weird Things That Can Happen While You Sleep title: Sleep-talkingurl:text: About 5 percent of adults yap in their sleep, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Most pillow-talk sessions last only about 30 seconds on average.

"It often happens within the first hour or two of sleep when your body is entering into deep stages of sleep, but there's still enough muscle tone to produce sounds or movements that may accompany dreams," says Dr. Winter.

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