The Facts about Pathological Sleep and Dreaming per The Penguin Dictionary of Humorous Quotations

In the last post, I provided a plethora of quotations with added commentary describing the cumbersome task of awakening in the morning, the psychological and economic advantages of a good night’s sleep, and the repercussions of sleep in a pernicious environment. In this post, I will highlight various sleep pathologies (in more simplistic terms, neurological diseases and disorders) as cunningly perceived (indirectly, of course) by notorious individuals.

  1. “There’s only one sure cure for snoring, insomnia.” Anonymous: To a physician or scientist in sleep medicine, this quote is a paradox. From the public’s view, snoring strains bedroom relationships both emotionally and physically. In this case, insomnia appears to be a plausible antidote (especially if this person was the woman in England who feels completely rested and restored from 5 min of sleep a night). However, contrary to the quote, snoring is highly indicative of a respiratory disease known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) which facilitates excessive sleepiness (hypersomnia) across the waking day. How? Basically, these individuals suffocate in their sleep because their airway is obstructed, preventing them from breathing, and hence, to abruptly awake gasping for air. Even if a snorer deliberately tried to sleep deprive himself, sleep would prevail, the snorer would fall asleep, the snorer would snore and gasp for air throughout the night, and would awake the next morning tired and drained from the night’s sleep (or absence of).
  2. “I did not sleep. I never do when I am over-happy, under-happy, or in bed with a strange man.” Edna O’ Brien, The Love Nest, 1963: It is very much true that a novel situation or cognitive state can disrupt sleep onset and sleep maintenance. Upon the development of practices of sleep hygiene that promote sleep (e.g. reading a book for 20 min, brushing your teeth with orange burst Crest toothpaste, nestling under the covers and snuggling with your significant other or stuffed animal), any deviation from this habitual sequence of sleep hygiene (such as brushing your teeth with cinnamon Crest toothpaste (seriously!)) can delay sleep onset and disrupt sleep maintenance.
  3. “He dreamed he was eating shredded wheat and woke up to find his mattress half gone.” Fred Allen. Though we laugh at this absurdity, this odd behavior of enacting dreams is an underlying manifestation of REM behavior disorder (not R.E.M, dammit!). The disorder arises from the disinhibition (i.e. inhibiting and inhibitor/exciting a neuron) of muscle paralysis during REM sleep. Yes, it is true. While in REM, all muscles of the body, except for ocular muscles controlling eye movements (for rapid eye movements, in this case), muscles of the diaphragm (to resume breathing), and muscles within the ear (to maintain hearing) are essentially in a state of paralysis. This muscular paralysis, however, is absent in victims of REM behavior disorder, causing someone to run into the furnace and tumble over furniture while dreaming about playing football or to pretend that a spouse is a deer while dreaming about snapping its neck! Video of REM behavior disorder


    Hopefully, these quotes have enlightened you, and have persuaded you to obtain more sleep or to advocate for funding to study sleep pathologies (emphasis on the latter). I’m off to bed, yo.


3 Responses

  1. If part of the purpose of sleep is to restore and repair muscle (i.e., fill muscle cell reserves with glycogen (that might not be the right chemical, but you know…)), do people with REM behavior disorder have problems with muscle repair, muscle building, or overall muscle fatigue?

    Secondly, in quote two, I think the author may have been referring to sex, which is a form of sleep deprivation that is completely and utterly different than simple breaking routine…

  2. I do not know. I would believe that people with REM behavior disorder would experience muscle fatigue due to the vigorous nature of enacting out dreams. As far as muscle repair (excluding a case where the person is toppling over furniture), I do not believe muscle growth and repair would be impeded because this process is reserved only for deep sleep, which people suffering from REM behavior disorder are not deprived of (nor are they deprived of REM).

    Yes, I would agree that quote two is referring to sex, but the point of the matter is, any novel situation, whether it be a one-night stand, or an unfamiliar emotion, disrupts sleep.

  3. […] Lady and the Tramp are diagnosed with REM sleep behavior disorder (see previous blog entry, “Pathologies of Sleep” for full description, neurobiological causation, and a video), Goofy has a circadian rhythm […]

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