Am I a total freak or does everyone do this?
June 27, 2006 12:30 PM   Subscribe

My fiance recently informed me that I often sit up in the middle of the night while fast asleep and he pushes me back into a reclining position and I never awaken. When I mentioned it to my mother, she casually said, "Oh yeah, you've been doing that since you were a baby."

Once he told me about this, however, I became aware that I occasionally (probably several times a week, and usually a couple times a night when it happens) sit up in my sleep when I am alone. When I sit up when I'm alone, I slowly become conscious and awaken, although I never reach full consciousness.

Last night, I awakened, sitting up, to a fair amount of mouth smacking, which unnerved me since I have a diagnosis of Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy. One of the most significant symptoms of JME is that the brain is most sensitive to seizure activity in the "transitions" between waking and sleeping.

So: do people with "normal brains" do this sitting up in their sleep thing or do I need to confer with my neurologist about it? It's happened often enough recently that I'm a little concerned about it and it's impeding the restfulness of my sleep. Plus, I tend to be hypervigilant about my broken brain. Any medical and non-medical but anecdotal advice would be helpful, because I don't know what to Google!
posted by wildeepdotorg to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would definitely talk to your doctor about it, just to be on the safe side.

While some people sleep-walk, and sleep-talk, you really shouldn't be able to sit up in bed while you are fast asleep.

Occasionally, roommates have mentioned that I talk in my sleep, and once I managed to go downstairs in my old house, grab a backpack, and bring it into bed with me (lord knows why), but these are really infrequent events and they tend to happen during times of extreme stress (finals during college, usually).
posted by tastybrains at 12:34 PM on June 27, 2006

Well, I don't have epilepsy of any kind (as far as I know), but I twitch significantly in my sleep and sort of chomp my mouth (open and close my jaw). Not sure if that helps.

Of course, IANAD.
posted by miss tea at 12:36 PM on June 27, 2006

you really shouldn't be able to sit up in bed while you are fast asleep.

Untrue. Its certainly not a common thing, but that doesn't mean its not possible. The inability to move during sleep is the disorder, not the ability to.
posted by ChasFile at 12:39 PM on June 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I was under the impression that while dreaming your body should not be able to move, otherwise you'd be acting out your dreams. But this is probably only during the REM cycle so I guess it depends when she's doing this.
posted by tastybrains at 12:45 PM on June 27, 2006

Ugh. is down? The google phrase you are looking for is 'dyssomnia'. The mashing of teeth miss tea described is called 'bruxism'. Odd movements during sleep are normal, and moving in general during sleep is quite healthy. That said, given your history and especially considering that it is disruptive, certainly consider going to a sleep expert.
posted by ChasFile at 12:47 PM on June 27, 2006

But this is probably only during the REM cycle

Indeed. It is often during Stage 4 NREM when the experience of sleep disorders - including sleepwalking(/sitting) - occur.
posted by ChasFile at 12:50 PM on June 27, 2006

Hell, I sit up, lip-smack, tooth-grind and talk nonsense so much in my sleep that my wife and I refer to "that guy." I rarely remember what "that guy" said or did. Usually my wife can get him back to sleep by asking him politely but sometimes he's beligerent in a nonsense sort of way. It's all a bit spooky but I never figured it spelled disorder.

It's better than a decade or so ago, when I actually called friends or threw my contact lenses down the drain, all in my sleep.
posted by argybarg at 12:54 PM on June 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

While in the Navy, a guy in the rack above mine would always sit up in his rack when anyone walked in the stateroom (he had the top rack, no bulkhead to hit his noggin on). He was asleep, but he'd sit straight up and stare right at you. Creepy.

All you had to do was tell him to go back to sleep and he'd lie right back down. He never remembered a thing.
posted by matty at 1:04 PM on June 27, 2006

I've never been diagnosed with anything, but I sit up all the time when asleep. I know this because I keep on waking up while sitting in the middle of the bed.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:09 PM on June 27, 2006

If this story had come to light in my epilepsy clinic, as it certainly would have done when I routinely interviewed the person who shares your bed about unusual nighttime movements; and if I'd then heard about atypical arousals (with 'mouth smacking', even - a red flag if ever there was one) I would have become concerned that the diagnosis of JME might be erroneous and that your epilepsy might not be fully controlled.

Make the doc who's treating your epilepsy aware of these events.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:18 PM on June 27, 2006

I was just about to say "paging ikkyu2" but looks like I don't have to. Ikkyu2, my diagnosis is JME and I've always assumed I still have it thought I'm nearly 40 (which is why I still take my meds every day). The "J" doesn't mean it goes away, does it?
posted by The Bellman at 1:36 PM on June 27, 2006

Response by poster: Bellman, I've been assured the J most definitely doesn't mean it goes away. Most JME diagnoses take a relatively long time to come to light because it's something of a slippery little beast and, like mine, languish as something like an "idiopathic temporal lobe epilepsy" diagnosis for years and years due to responsiveness to medication and other factors.

I'll definitely take it up with the braindoc; I guess there's been too little excitement lately.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 2:16 PM on June 27, 2006

Actually, the hard data to answer the question of long-term remission in JME and other epilepsies is sorely lacking.

Lip smacking and episodes of partial arousal without complete return to consciousness are very suggestive of iTLE.

Unfortunately, the current diagnostic categories are far from a state where they can be said to reflect unambiguous physical realities, and every neurologist has encountered many patients who simply do not fit neatly into the syndromic categorizations. This is where it's helpful to consult an expert, because they know which factors are important to consider and which can be handwaved away.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:58 PM on June 27, 2006

Sounds like the doctors in the thread say you need real help, but I still want to chime in and say it could be worse...

I've been known to sleep-threaten my sleeping partner with a (formerly water filled) beer stein, or kick the shit out of an oil column heater, or pull the mattress up over myself and my formerly sleeping partner "to shield us from the grenades", or laugh/talk/shout (all loud), or run into the closet and slam the door shut behind me (then slowly wake up standing in a dark closet and feel incredibly self-concious and embarassed), or humsing yankee doodle while I play my air trombone (like an air guitar, but even more embarassing).

I love waking up laughing though. It's a really good feeling.
posted by The Monkey at 9:08 PM on June 27, 2006

One more anecdote, on a lighter note...

Once a boyfriend of mine suddenly sat up in bed, which woke me with a start. I asked him what was wrong, thinking he was awake and had heard something.

After a brief pause he said, clearly and distinctly, "Fish!"

Then he put his head on the pillow and that was that.
posted by shifafa at 9:48 PM on June 27, 2006

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