7 Weird Things That Can Happen While You Sleep

Most nights, if you’re lucky, sleep is a completely unremarkable event. But every so often you may experience bizarre behaviors that can leave you feeling completely confused–and perhaps slightly freaked out.

Not to worry. We asked sleep docs to decode some of the craziest things that can occur from the moment you close your eyes–and most of them are totally normal.

WEIRD THINGS THAT CAN HAPPEN WHILE YOU SLEEP

Feeling like you’re falling

Also known as a hypnagogic jerk, it tends to happen as you’re falling asleep.

Typically when you dream, your body is paralyzed, but sometimes you can start dreaming before your body is on “off” mode. With hypnagogic jerks, you might act out a dream like falling off a cliff, falling from the sky, or tripping, says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., Men’s Health sleep advisor and medical director of the sleep center at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Virginia.

Why the falling? Researchers aren’t sure.

“It’s more likely to happen when you’re overtired, sleep-deprived, or stressed,” Dr. Winter says. “And your brain enters into sleep cycles more aggressively, but your body hasn’t caught up.”

WEIRD THINGS THAT CAN HAPPEN WHILE YOU SLEEP

Sleep paralysis

You start to wake up in the morning and realize you can’t move a muscle or speak. It can last from several seconds to several minutes, and it’s completely terrifying.

Essentially, it’s the opposite of what happens with hypnagogic jerks, where your brain wakes up before the paralysis that accompanies deep sleep goes away, Dr. Winter says. “You may feel like you can’t breathe. Many people describe it as an elephant sitting on their chest. That’s because all of the muscles that control your breathing except for the diaphragm are still paralyzed.”

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