8 Embarrassing Sleep Secrets
What your body was up to while you were sleeping might make you blush.
Habit #3: Sleepwalking
"The odd things that happen in the night that get people's attention tend to be things that are scary or potentially dangerous, like complicated episodes of sleepwalking," says Helene Emsellem, MD, medical director of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, Md.
"We should be paralyzed while we're in the dream phase of sleep. If there's a failure of the normal paralysis that protects us from acting out our dreams, then we can potentially be dangerous and inadvertently hurt ourselves or a bed partner," Emsellem says.
In extreme cases, someone might go into the kitchen, turn on the stove, and forget to turn it off without any memory of the incident.
The verdict: If you're acting out complex behaviors during sleep, it's time to see a doctor to figure out what's going on.
Habit #4: Talking in Your Sleep
Talking in your sleep, whether it sounds like a conversation or just mumbling, is usually harmless by itself. But screaming and yelling with intense fear are associated with night terrors, which are more common in children than adults. They occur during REM sleep, so you will not remember it in the morning. The verdict: Don't lose sleep over talking in your sleep.
Habit #5: Bedwetting
Bedwetting is embarrassing and distressing, but a once-in-a-blue-moon episode is not particularly concerning, especially if you're dreaming about going to the bathroom, Emsellem says.
However, repeated bedwetting could indicate a problem, such as nocturnal seizures. Bowel movements during sleep are unusual, Emsellem says, so one instance should merit a visit to the doctor.
The verdict: You can write off one bedwetting episode, but you should see a doctor if you have repeat performances.
Habit #6: Nocturnal Orgasms
Nocturnal orgasms, sometimes referred to as wet dreams, can occur on a regular basis for men and women, typically during REM sleep. That's a normal phenomenon that occurs throughout our life, Kohler says. The Verdict: Completely natural.
Habit #7: Flatulence
Passing gas can occur during sleep, but most people aren't aware of it. "It depends a lot on the GI tract and what you're eating," Kohler says. "There's nothing pathologic, but it can be embarrassing if your partner tells you about it." The verdict: Examine your diet if you're gassing up the entire room.
Habit #8: Twitching
When you're nodding off, you may experience a release phenomenon known as a hypnic jerk. Your body may twitch, or you may experience a visual or audio component like seeing flashing lights or hearing a popping sound. The verdict: Hypnic jerks are generally benign.
Time to Seek Help?
"For so many years, we've ignored sleep as being an important part of health," Kohler says. "We talk about nutrition, weight gain, weight loss, and exercise. Sleep is extremely important to our functioning. We need to be aware that both quality and quantity is important."
People also need to be aware of what they're doing while they're sleeping. So stick to this basic rule of thumb: If you're having a persistent problem that is disturbing to you or your bed partner, get it checked out.