From time to time we exchange bedtime stories with our family and friends ranging from our crazy dreams to waking up to embarrassing discoveries. Although these can be humorous subjects it can also be difficult to deal with especially if you are in a new relationship or if your nocturnal actions attract the attention of others in the house; below we will look through the most common sleep secrets that you would rather not share with loved ones.
Drooling is when saliva flows out of your mouth unintentionally; you have six salivary glands which are located at the bottom of your mouth, in your cheeks and near your front teeth; they can make up to 2 litres of saliva a day.
Drooling now and again when sleeping is relatively normal especially if you sleep on your side; your muscles are relaxed during sleep therefore your mouth opens with the possibility of some saliva flowing out. Drooling is more common in infants because they have not fully gained muscular control yet and it can be a result of teething. However too much saliva can be a sign of an illness or a health condition, some examples are: an infection (such as tonsillitis or a sinus infection), an allergy or from a side effect (morning sickness) you experience during pregnancy. If you are drooling regularly over a prolonged period of time we recommend that you go and visit your doctor as it could be a symptom of an underlying health issue.
According to the NHS, bedwetting is fairly common among children in the UK; one in twelve 4.5 year olds wet the bed twice a week; one in forty 7.5 year olds; one in sixty-five 9.5 year olds and 1 in 100 children carry this problem to adulthood. Bedwetting can be caused by a number of reasons some of these are: bladder problems, excessive urine production, emotional problems, difficulties waking up during the night and an underlying health condition.
However in adults if the bedwetting only happens now and again, it’s usually down to alcohol. At first alcohol acts as a stimulant, giving you short bursts of energy quickly followed by a drop; it can also be seen as a depressant. As a depressant it slows down the bodily functions therefore you may have already passed fluid through your body before you wake up. Alcohol is also a diuretic so the amount of times you need the toilet through the night increases. To ensure that bedwetting due to alcohol does not get the better of you, try and stop drinking in the hour leading up to bed and start to drink water or fresh orange juice when you know you are heading home. Make sure you go to the toilet before bed too to avoid any bed accidents.
The medical term of passing gas is known as flatulence which came from the Latin term ‘flatus’ which means the blowing or breaking of wind. Medically, flatus is referred to gas being produced in the stomach and the bowels. When you pass gas during the night you’re either unaware because of being in the deep sleep stages or you are just starting to gain conscious in the light stages of sleep so hear yourself doing it. When you are unaware of your actions it’s down to the bacteria in your gut still working while you sleep; 80% of the gas we produce comes from bacteria.
This embarrassing secret is perfectly normal and it’s very rare that it’s linked to a serious health condition; the main cause of this is down to your diet and your GI tract (your digestive system). Your digestive system is responsible from the moment food, water and nutrients enter your mouth to them exiting your body; it also plays a key role in many bodily functions such as energy production and detoxification. Gas within the GI tract can come from swallowing air (aerophagia) or as mentioned above by certain foods. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, US states that according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), gas can come from most foods that contain carbohydrates, some of these are:
Raffinose – a complex sugar found in cabbage, sprouts, beans and wholegrain.
Lactose – a natural sugar found in milk, other diary products and processed foods such as bread and cereal.
Fructose – a sugar found in wheat, pears and onions; it can also be used as a sweetener in soft and fruit drinks.
Sorbitol – a natural sugar found in most fruits, for example: peaches and apples.
Starches – potatoes, noodles, wheat etc… (rice is the only starch that doesn’t cause gas).
Soluble fibre – dissolves easily in water such as beans, most fruits, dried peas and oatmeal.
Insoluble fibre – passes through the intestines relatively intact, speeds up the process of passing food and waste through the gut and produces little gas, such as wheat bran, nuts and some vegetables etc…
In the UK it is estimated that around 40% of the population suffer from snoring; it can affect people of all ages but is more common in men between the ages of 40 and 60. Smoking, alcohol and being overweight can all be key factors which promote snoring. Snoring occurs when the airways in your head and neck are relaxed causing the passageway to almost close up; the pressure on the airways cause the tissues to vibrate resulting in a snorting or rattling noise. This can also happen when your airways are partially blocked from a cold or if you suffer from an allergy such as hay fever.
Simple lifestyle changes such as changing your diet and cutting back on alcohol/smoking can slowly prevent from you snoring in the future. Participating in some frequent exercise if you are overweight will help reduce or even fully stop the snoring. If the lifestyle changes still don’t help your snoring you should go and see your local doctor; symptoms such as excessive daytime sleepiness, low concentration levels and problems in your relationships can all be signs that your snoring is related to another condition; obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). OSA is when the airways become partially or fully blocked (interrupting the oxygen supply going to your brain) for around 10 seconds per episode resulting in a shortage of breath. It can take you from the deep sleep stage to the lighter stages of sleep or even a short period of wakefulness. OSA, if left untreated, can lead to other health conditions such as heart issues, obesity and diabetes. There are devices which can be worn to prevent snoring such as nasal devices; nasal strips and nasal dilators prevent the nostrils from narrowing during the night; oral devices such as chin strips and a vestibular shield can be worn too. The very last point of call if all else fails is surgery. Read more on snoring here.
Sleep talking, also known as somniloquy is when a person basically talks in their sleep; it can range from a slight moan to a flow of words and can occur any time during the night. Usually sleep talking is caused by a few factors, some of these are: certain medications, stress and an illness such as a fever. It can be hard to diagnose this condition on your own because you are usually unaware that you are doing it; a bedtime partner or a sleep application on your smartphone can help you learn if you suffer from this issue. There is usually no treatment needed but to help prevent sleep talking in the future you should stick to a regular sleep schedule and try to relax before bedtime to clear away any stress; if it’s causing problems with your personal life you should visit your local doctor who can guide you further.
This can be quite a scary sleep secret especially if you wake up during your episode somewhere else in your home. Although sleepwalking can affect anyone it’s more common in children (estimated 30% of the UK – NHS) and they usually stop sleepwalking once they hit puberty. The exact cause is unknown but possible causes are: stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation, certain medications etc… A sleepwalker can vary on how far they go; some just sit up in bed or walk around the house whereas in more severe cases they go outside and even try to drive their car. An episode of sleepwalking usually lasts around ten minutes and during that time the sleepwalker’s eyes are open. There is no key treatment for sleepwalking but it usually helps by making sure you have the sufficient amount of hours sleep (seven to nine hours) and also to relieve any stress before bed. You should have a pre-sleep routine that you follow roughly the same every night to help you relax and clear your mind of any worrying or stressful thoughts before going to sleep. Read about how to keep a sleepwalker safe here.
Remember, if any of these embarrassing sleep secrets are causing problems in your personal and work life you should visit your local doctor who can look at your symptoms and history; they may find an underlying health condition.