End of a tiring day at work. We rest our heads on the pillow and indulge in a peaceful night of complete rest, both physical and mental. Or so we think. It is true that sleep has restorative functions and that it is essential for life.
But if we think it’s like turning the switch off and turning off, we couldn’t be more wrong. While we sleep, our mind and body are very busy doing tasks behind our conscience. And the result is not always pleasant.
Here is, from the minute we close our eyes, what happens to us (or can happen to us) during a night’s sleep.
Feeling like Someone Is Touching You While sleeping – Meaning
We relax and slowly sink into darkness. Our muscles loosen, our breathing and pulse slow down, and our eyes begin to move very slowly.
The brain changes tune, from alpha waves to theta waves. It is Phase 1 of sleep, a slight numbness that comes and goes in waves. Any external interference, such as noise, can wake us up.
But the annoyances do not only come from outside. Suddenly, in the sweet limbo of slumber, a jerk in the legs brings us violently out of drowsiness.
These are myoclonic spasms, often accompanied by a disturbing sensation of falling into the void that we try to avoid with a feint of jumping, and that translates into a kick to the person sleeping next to us.
According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD), 60 to 70% of the population suffer from myoclonic spasms, but it is a normal process as long as it does not prevent sleep. However, its meaning is uncertain.
According to one theory, it is the part of the brain in charge of wakefulness that struggles not to lose control. A curious hypothesis argues that it is an evolutionary remnant from when we slept in trees and ran the risk of falling to the ground.
The sensation of falling is one of the hypnogogic hallucinations, which we experience in the transition from wakefulness to sleep and which can present us with a varied menu of visual, auditory or other sensations, not always pleasant.
A particular form is what is popularly known as the Tetris Effect, the one that addicts to this video game suffered when they closed their eyes and saw the pieces fall.
Curiously, it also happens with other games such as chess, or with any activity that leaves an intense sensory imprint, such as skiing or sailing.
Another hallucinatory manifestation occurs in the form of a powerful noise, such as an explosion, the doorbell, a slamming door, a gunshot, or some other roar.
In reality, sound only exists within our mind, although the name of the phenomenon is not exactly reassuring: Exploding Head Syndrome.
The clinical psychologist at Washington State University (USA) Brian Sharpless points out that little research has been done yet, although prevalence figures of around 10% or higher are handled.
A recent study by Sharpless has revealed that it affects not only those over 50 as previously believed, but also young people.
As this expert explains to The Huffington Post, the syndrome “is physically harmless.” “It only becomes a problem if someone suffers from it to such an extent that it affects their sleep, or is distressed by having an episode, or mistakenly believes that something serious is happening to them.”
Sharpless points out that it sometimes disappears simply by informing the patient that there is no reason to worry. “In most cases, it is just an unusual experience that happens from time to time.”
If we have managed to overcome the first stage and we want to continue, about 10 minutes later we will enter Phase 2, the longest and relatively calm; we lose awareness of our surroundings, our eyes stop moving, our heart rate and breathing are calm, our body temperature and blood pressure drop, and our muscles remain relaxed.
Our brain, free of fantasies and hallucinations, falls into a haven of quiet theta waves, only interrupted by a few accelerations called spindles and by sudden jumps called K complexes. This restful sleep occupies us approximately 50% of the entire cycle. Here we are safe.
After a quiet course through Phase 2, an hour after falling asleep we enter deep sleep, with its occasional ration of snoring that is more frequent in this period. In Phase 3 we recharge the batteries, the hormonal system readjusts and our brain rocks in a slow wave of delta waves, wide and deep.
It seems that we are finally plunged into that placid rest from which it is difficult for us to wake up, and that we will sleep soundly the rest of the night. Nothing could be further from the truth: the worst is yet to come. Here begins the preferred territory of parasomnias, sleep disorders.
But this is no more than a slight annoyance compared to the possibility of suddenly sitting up in the middle of the night, sweating and screaming in terror.
They are not nightmares, which will appear at a later stage, but something even more sinister, which occurs especially in childhood and usually subsides in adolescence: night terrors. Up to 5% of children suffer from them, decreasing to 1-2% in adulthood.
According to Dr. Suresh Kotagal, a pediatric neurologist at the Mayo Clinic Sleep Medicine Center (USA), a large study revealed that up to 80% of children can suffer from an isolated parasomnia, and that there is nothing to worry about if it is of isolated phenomena.
For parents, a night terror is a harrowing experience, especially when children do not seem to recognize them and do not respond to attempts at comfort.
What to do in these cases? Kotagal offers this newspaper some instructions for parents: “They should try to remain calm, make sure that the child is not in an environment where he can be harmed, such as near a staircase. The terror will run its course and will stop, usually in a few minutes.
There is no medication or intervention required. In fact, trying to wake the child could make his behavior worse. “Fortunately, the most common thing is that the children do not remember anything about the episode the next morning.
A similar case is sleepwalking, which also affects children more often. Sleepwalkers wander in an altered state of consciousness during which they can perform imaginary or real tasks, as simple as opening a drawer or as complex as cleaning the house.
Curious cases have been described, such as that of a woman sending emails, and according to the ICSD there are reports of homicides and suicides committed during an episode.
In reality, it is the sleepwalkers themselves who are most at risk, especially when they start cooking, going out or driving. Kotagal advises not trying to wake them up, but simply trying to steer them to an environment where they are safe.
In some cases, the sleepwalker has only one fixed goal: sex. This variant, called sexsomnia, has obvious complications, as sexual assaults and rapes have been recorded. Another particular situation is that of sleepwalkers with an eating disorder who loot the fridge, consuming raw or frozen food.
Less harmful to themselves and to others are the somniloquists, who limit themselves to speaking in dreams. His repertoire can vary from unintelligible babbling to, for example, narrating football matches.
The case of the British Adam Lennard was very popular on the internet, whose wife recorded and even turned into business the phrases her husband uttered in his dreams: “I would strip my skin off and bathe my living flesh in vinegar before spending time with you”.
Suddenly, breathing and heart rate jump, the eyes shoot in all directions, the penis or clitoris harden, and our brain goes into a frenzy that justifies the nickname of this period: paradoxical sleep. But it is better known by its formal name, Rapid Eye Movement Phase (MOR or REM).
Welcome to the realm of fantasy. Dreams enter the REM / REM Phase, but also nightmares. This is where the mountebank chases us with the chainsaw or we walk naked through Constantinople.
The mind is open to all kinds of bizarre figurations, so vivid that if they are sexual in content they can end in orgasm, something common during adolescence.
In fact, dreams are so real that the brain must disconnect the body to prevent us from doing theater. During this phase our voluntary muscles become paralyzed; if not, we have REM sleep behavior disorder.
According to the US Academy of Sleep Medicine, this phenomenon differs from sleepwalking in that the eyes are usually closed, there is no real sex or food, and the subjects do not usually leave the bed; unless, for example, they do so to “receive the winning touchdown pass” or to escape an attacker.
But if the performance is violent, someone can get hurt. Dr. Michael Silber, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic Sleep Medicine Center (USA), points out that 32 to 76% of cases result in personal injury, and that in 11% of the cases medical attention is required.
“Damage includes lacerations, bruises, limb fractures and subdural hematomas (blood clots on the surface of the brain),” Silber lists. But those affected can not only injure themselves, but also injure others: “64% of bedmates report having been inadvertently assaulted, and many report damage.
Feeling Like Someone Is Touching You While Sleeping – Symbolism
I would describe this feeling as empowering, protective, nurturing, calming and reaching, and simply indescribable.
Such a connection can only arise if the “chemistry” is correct, if we can smell each other in the true sense of the word.
Confidence plays a huge role here too, because many people are initially unfamiliar with a hug from behind.
However, if you trust each other, this type of hug feels incredibly safe and even protective, because it gives a sense of security. In some cases, however, people who are hugged feel controlled because their freedom of movement is restricted.
The arms of the person hugging are wrapped around the other’s waist.
It is particularly important because you help someone who is important to you in a difficult time and who is there to help you. Touch is an expression of affection, devotion and love. They especially work through attention and, conversely, create attention.
People hug in this way, especially when a prolonged separation is imminent, for example, before a long trip or when they meet again after a long time.
A newborn child is placed on the mother’s tummy shortly after the birth process, which quickly calms down. He still feels fused with his mother during the first year of life.
Touch, like a hug, is essential to a person’s well-being. As we hug, we spill out the hormone oxytocin, which lowers our stress level and thus reduces pain and anxiety.
Getting hugs regularly can also have a positive effect on your health, strengthening your immune system and lowering blood pressure.
These two factors work together in hugs. Men are also more likely to hug the left, because hugs are often viewed negatively among men, even if a hug is only used as a short, neutral greeting.
Psychologists also speak in this context of the emergence of basic trust. Lack of hugs can make you sick, as can a lack of vitamins. They strengthen your character and therefore help you in crisis situations.
According to renowned family therapist Virginia Satir, giving yourself twelve hugs a day will give you maximum stability and even help you develop your personality.