So I did a sleep study. I was hooked up to a bunch of polysomnography devices: chest/diaphragm straps to measure expansion, EEG electrodes, face electrodes to measure eye/face movements, electrodes on my legs for restless legs syndrome a device in my nose to monitor respiration, a blood oxygen monitor on my finger, and a video camera/mic to record all of my actions.
Despite all of these measures they didn’t find anything unusual. I spent most of the 9 hours asleep. I ground my jaw during one portion of the night. I also called out for a “Kelly” at one point, despite not knowing a Kelly. I am still waiting for a copy of the data, but the analyst told me that my REM cycles were slightly shorter then they should be.
The doctor who saw me said that there was no abnormal muscle activation during REM sleep, but since the sample size was small (only one sleep test) that this didn’t demonstrate anything. She believed that whatever was causing this parasomnia probably wasn’t a synucleinopathy for two reasons: 1) I’ve had these experiences since childhood, and if it was a synucleinopathy I’d be non-functional by this point, 2) there was no muscle activation during REM sleep.
The doctor offered to prescribe a benzodiazepine which can help prevent physical parasomnias.
Moving forward, I think there are a couple non-pharmaceutical interventions that could prove effective:
- Sleep hygiene
Making sure to sleep/wake up at the same time. Maintain bedtime/waking rituals (brushing teeth, showering). Keep the bedroom dark. Treat the bedroom as somewhere that is entirely dedicated to sleep (don’t read or use devices in bed). Don’t use electronics before bed as both the light and activity can be stimulating.
- Lucid dreaming
Not just the ability to become lucid during REM sleep, but the ability to maintain Mental Autonomy (MA) across conscious states. MA can be present during any state of consciousness (check out Thomas Metzinger’s paper on the topic). Adding specific lucid dreaming exercises alongside my meditation practice may allow me to “snap out of it” faster.
Since episodes happen quite infrequently, and I’ve never done anything drastic, I don’t think I need to sleep in a sleeping bag with oven mitts on my hands (like Mike Birbiglia in Sleepwalk With Me). Hopefully these interventions are effective, and they’re healthy habits to have regardless.