Sleeping Disorders and the I-Function
As we all know, sleep is an important part of our lives. Without the proper amounts and type of sleep, fatigue and other problems can arise. Generally, we can clearly distinguish between a sleeping person and a person that is awake. With sleeping disorders, the distinction between an awake person and a sleeping person becomes more intriguing. What is the difference, how does it relate to the I-function and consciousness? Each sleeping disorder has its own unique answer to this question. It is essential to understand sleep to fully appreciate it. However, many aspects of it remain a mystery. We do have some degree of understanding of sleep. Within our sleep cycle a type of unusual sleep occurs, REM sleep. During this cycle the periods of REM sleep are interspersed with slow wave sleep in alternation. Each period of REM sleep (there are usually 4 or 5 periods a night) lasts for approximately 5 to 30 minutes. During these periods a sleep paradox occurs. An enormous amount of brain activity takes place; this is sometimes even more activity then when awake. This clearly indicates that sleep is not simply to rest our mind and not to think. So, during this period our brains are extremely active, yet there is usually no input or output. During this period, along with the random eye movement (REM), there is a complete loss of muscle tone. Essentially, at this point, the motor system is paralyzed (normally the body inhibits any movement). The autonomic nervous system also alters its behavior. The regulation of body temperature is lost and the blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rates shows increased variability. REM sleep can be detected by measuring the electrical activity of the brain with an electroencephalogram. At this point, the EEG will show the same pattern of activity as when the brain is awake.
It is fascinating that at this point, REM sleep, where dreaming is frequent, the body shuts itself down. If, as suggested in class, the I-function is active at this stage, it is interesting that all body movement is inhibited. During other stages in which there are synchronized EEGs, and the I-function is not supposed to be present, the body does not inhibit all motor activity. This seems to imply that when the I-function is present it will control the body as it sees fit. One of the more ubiquitous parasomnias is sleep talking or somniloquy. This disorder is characterized by often nonsensical or difficult to understand verbal vocalizations during sleep. The person may carry on conversations and seem to speak as if they are awake. This is not constrained to a specific stage of sleep; it is present in REM and NREM. Regardless of the stage of sleep, this is an extremely common disorder allows talking. Frequently we talk during the day, utilize our I-function when talking and remember what was talked about. This is not the case with somniloquy.
Sleepwalking, known as somnambulism, is a very interesting disorder. The symptoms of this disorder, walking while asleep, occur during slow wave sleep, in the first third of the major sleep episode. People can vary in their symptoms, from sitting up in bed, to doing more complicated activities such as preparing a meal. In addition, there is difficulty in rousing the person from the episode and amnesia following the episode. Generally, the sleepwalker has a blank face and is unresponsive to efforts made by others to communicate with them. Sleepwalking is more common in children. It also seems as if children do not inhibit their actions as much as adults do. This poses the question Are we born with an I-function? Do children develop their I-function and because it is premature, they are more likely to sleepwalk? Could the I-function be present in these synchronized periods? Is that why adults do not sleepwalk as much as children, because their I-function inhibits the behavior? Does sleepwalking occur when the I-function is distracted and allows unattended behaviors to occur?
When sleepwalking is in its most severe form, episodes take place nightly and those that are affected are prone to physical injury. Sleep walking is not caused by a medical condition or the physiological effects of a substance. As a result of the episodes, sleepwalkers can feel embarrassed, anxiety, and confusion after learning of their sleepwalking. After an episode of sleepwalking, they do not report being conscious as they might be in a dream or in real life. However, the sleepwalker may seem to act as if they were awake.
Because overexertion and lack of sleep can trigger sleepwalking episodes, getting enough rest is suggested. Moreover, stress can result in sleepwalking. A calming ritual or relaxation exercises before bed may help. Since the person is walking around in their sleep and in the dark, removing dangerous objects and sleeping on the ground floor of the house is advised. Although, some individuals are able to navigate easily and safely through their surroundings without serious harm. Hypnosis has also been found as a helpful treatment for somnambulism. The drugs that have been found helpful include benzodiazepines, diazepam, or lorazepam. Older men are more likely to be afflicted with REM sleep behavior disorder then the general population. The newly discovered REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), is marked by complex and violent behaviors and an unawareness of surroundings. This is unusual, not only because it occurs during sleep, but because it occurs during REM sleep. Ordinarily, this REM stage of sleep is characterized by "REM atonia", which is muscle paralysis. These older men attempt to carry out "violent moving nightmares" which are characterized by attack behaviors, locomotion (particularly running), orientating and exploring behaviors (staring, grasping, head raising, reaching, searching, etc.), and a minimal syndrome of twitching and a jerking of the limbs and body. Could RBD occur because the I-function is active and the body fails to inhibit the actions as it usually does? The mind of the person would be conscious and the I-function would be active. However, the person does not receive any of the real input from his bedroom. The person simply ignores the input and generates his own internal environment which he navigates through in his mind and in real life. The person would be just like any one who is awake except seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting, and smelling things that do not actually exist. To detect RBM, family interviews, polysomnographic monitoring, psychiatric monitoring can be used. In the people with RBM, the location of the disorder in the nervous system varied greatly. This indicates that it is not always found in the same location in the nervous system. Some people that are physically debilitated by a disorder while awake, become quite active during the night when their RBM occurs. Another way to detect RBM, is by using the electromyograph. This device detects muscle activity. If the muscles of the person are active during the period of REM atonia, then the diagnosis can be made (muscles should not be active during REM sleep).
The content of the nightmares that RBD people suffer from is highly unusual. Generally, they try to defend themselves or family members from an attacker. Rarely are they the primary aggressor, an animal or unfamiliar person ordinarily is. Moreover, the odd dream content is acted out by the dreamer while in REM sleep. Some people have sustained fractures in their ribs, digits, vertebrae, sternum, gotten bruises, lacerations, sprains, joint dislocations, cartilage tears, torn nails, rug burn, pulled hair, nose bleeds, and traumatic headaches. In addition, other people in the bed have been injured. Because of the accidents that can occur while acting out dreams, many people take desperate means to prevent injury. Some tie themselves to their beds, others use sleeping bags, pillow barricades, or padded waterbeds. Sleep can contain walking, talking, and even carrying out complicated behaviors as can be done when awake. Is the I-function present? In some cases, while asleep, the I-function is present (lucid dreaming). If it is possible to be conscious, talk and carryout behaviors while asleep, why is sleep so different from when we are awake and why is it so difficult to understand? In addition, if we can carry out all of these behaviors with out our I-function why do we have the I-function? It is interesting that the body normally inhibits any movement that is made while the person is sleeping. Is it to prevent any action without the I-function? Clearly, the I-function serves a purpose and may have a role during sleep. While sleeping the person can be conscious, have the I-function present and create a new reality that seems real to them, this seems like being awake except for the person determining the input.
10/17/2005, from a Reader on the Web
HI, I have been talking in my sleep for the past year, constantly, I use to talk all the time, and then it stopped when I was diagnosed with Bi-polar disease. after 17 years the doctors took me off of Lithium and put me on Lamictal, which like a miracle drug. But, this is when I started talking again. I use to walk in my sleep but stopped when I was on Lithium. I actually ran out of the house and ran into our back yard, then I woke up! Kind of funny but scary. I also have had night sweats and terror for many years probably since my early 20's, I am now 60. I am glad to see talking is common, although I am very fatigued in the mornings. I also take Lamictal, Clonapin, zoloft in the evenings. Very interesting article. Thank you for this info. I feel better about it. Sincerely Victoria Kelley PS: Many years ago when I was in my 30's, I actually almost climbed out of a second floor window.
I have only sleep walked on a few occasions but last night has to be one of my most scariest episodes.
I have only been home for a few days from Easter camping, and last night i thought (in my dream) that i was slill camping and i was walking around for my tent for ages as you do. Finally after quite a while i looked around the room and finally relized 'hey im not even camping, im at home' then relizing while looking around the dark room, 'I'm in the bathroom!' not only that but i was standing in my bath tub!!
A very funny thought, however i was very, very freaked out at the time!
Im only 15, and am scared easily, im hoping this sleeping walking does not occcur to often ... Laura Hanbridge, 19 April 2006
Hello, I am Paul, I live in Norway, Nearbo, I am student of 18 years old. I am very desperate to know what has been happening lately to me, I think I am possessed by something, someone... I dream this nightmare since one which craft game we played at one party at 2006 New Years Eve. I was supposed to be a medium, and we were calling a murderer's soul which was supposed to be the one man's who killed some girl 5 years ago in same town were we had celebration. During the process, people said that my voice changed and I talked in voices of unexplainable, perhaps the same murderers voice. After the ritual, I did remembered nothing, but my friends were most terrified and shocked, that this whole thing worked. Now about almost every week I am having a nightmare about that process of witch craft that I am possessed by something I can't control. When I wake up, I am still speaking in tongues I CAN'T CONTROL, as well as whole body! I can feel it, that I am awake, because my parents saw me once doing it and they think I lost my mind! I don't know what to do... I am going out of my mind, I need help, or advice! Anything! ... Paul, 11 January 2007
I've discovered my own sleep paradox, even though this is not anything most people haven't been aware of. In a nutshell, the problem is that we do not fall asleep while consciously thinking about sleep. We generally nod off thinking about other things.
I have never been insomniac but I have noticed that the more worried I might be about falling asleep (due to worrying about my performance at work the next day), the more difficult it is to fall asleep. This last week, I had a bout of sleep that was triggered by bad news from an ex girlfriend but then snowballed out of my own head.
I started to feel as if I HAD to be thinking about other things than my ex or sleep itself, to fall asleep. The harder I tried, the less capable I was. After two nights of 3 or less hours of sleep (despite sleep aides) and one completely sleepless nights, I committed myself to the emergency room. A doctor prescribed some sleeping pills and suggested that try staying awake until evening, at which point I take the pill.
A couple hours later, I started having a panic attack. In my exhausted state, I felt as if my future held a very strong depressant every night to sleep (one capable of overcoming my conscious objections to sleeping) or staying awake 48 to 72 hours at a time until sleep literally just overcame my body, whether I was driving or what. I would never sleep like I used to. The logic just seemed so air-tight: sleep is essential for life, but it is essential you not think too hard about it while trying to attain it. That humans have slept well for thousands of years has required them to NOT be overly aware of this little nagging fact. This has generally not been a problem for anybody because there are always more specific, timely concerns to think about while drifting off. Unfortunately for me, I cannot think of anything more timely or important than sleeping itself.
I went back into the emergency room and they could see my shaking, persperation and rapid speech. I handed over my clothes and gave blood and urine samples. I am happy that I was able to explain this paradox to a social worker and to the lab aide and to the nurse. A doctor who didn't see me prescribed lorazapam (for my nerves and to help me sleep) and a doctor whom I had seen earlier that morning had prescribed trazadone, an antidepressant and sleep aide. The aide also shut off the lights, gave me extra blankets, and encouraged me to try to sleep by thinking about a road trip. I tried but couldn't.
When it became time to go, I was given my clothes back and I brought my prescription to the safeway pharmacy. It took a very long time there and by the time I got home, the panic was beginning to build again. Even after taking the anti-anxiety meds and lying down, I could not sleep. I was losing my facilities, as at one moment a voice (indication that I was almost dreaming) said: "What if your name was like John instead of Antonio"? and compelled me to change my posture. I was almost asleep but my fevered, jealous consciousness took hold of me soon enough again. My panic grew to the point of wanting to be back to the ER and being given a general anesthetic.
At some point, I must have simply given up and inadvertantly started thinking about something else for just long enough for sleep to steal over my body. I slept for around 18 hours in a row, waking up about 5:00 a.m. the following day.
I feel great now but I have no idea what the future holds. Do I need hypnosis? could it help? anybody else have this problem? I still feel as if I will never see sleeping the same way as before about five days ago and that I face a lifetime of challenges with sleep ... AH, 21 July 2007
I have looked all over the internet for some type of information on this and have come to many dead ends. So I have decided to put myself out there and in hopes, someone can understand, offer advise, or has been there.
It starts off: This doesn't happen frequently, but once a month is scary enough. I lay down to sleep, and I find myself awake, fully conscience. Can add, multiply, speak to myself (inside my head of course), but cannot move or open my eyes, because I am asleep... technically.
Like tonight for instance. I had a dream that I was asleep in a car, in the drivers side, and when I woke (inside the dream) the car was moving backwards fast as if the parking brake failed, I looked out the passenger's back window and noticed that the car I was in barely missed a truck, but all of the sudden I knew I was dreaming, I said to myself in the dream, I'm dreaming! I'm dreaming!.. and everything stopped. So there I was ... stuck ... Charles, 17 September 2007