EXCLUSIVE: Do YOU laugh maniacally in your sleep? Scientists say it could be a sign of a serious health issue after studying a woman who cackled through the night for four years
- Sleep laughing is known as hypnogely and is usually a harmless phenomenon
- Doctors study a woman who has been sleeping laughing for four years
- READ MORE: Scientists say getting a good night’s sleep ‘consistently’ slows down aging
Random bursts of laughter while you sleep can be more than just scary for your partner to hear. It could even be something more serious, doctors warn.
Doctors at the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center-Sleep Center have treated an extreme case of the condition in a 32-year-old New York woman who has been laughing in her sleep every night for four years.
Her husband said her “creepy” cackling occurs several times a night, usually shortly after she falls asleep.
Doctors at the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center-Sleep Center have treated a rather extreme case: a 32-year-old New York woman who has been laughing in her sleep every night for four years
Sleep laughing, also called hypnogely, is a relatively common and usually harmless phenomenon.
Most documented cases of this occur during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep, the deepest stage where vivid dreams occur.
And scientists believe that the cause is most likely due to laughing during a funny dream.
However, repeated bouts of sleep laughing in the non-REM sleep phase, or the transition from sleep to wake, as the woman in the study experienced, has never been described in the scientific literature.
The woman’s nightly laughter prompted doctors to examine her for a possible seizure disorder.
However, multiple tests, including an MRI of her brain, multiple sleep studies and an EEG to measure brain activity, yielded no significant findings.
And the woman had no major health problems that doctors thought were related. Although she had been diagnosed with ADHD in the past, she had no history of seizures or sleep disorders.
While laughing, her body did not move at all and she did not remember the events when she woke up.
She laughed with her eyes open or closed, and her sleep was otherwise ‘quiet’ without breathing abnormalities.
Doctors said they were unsure whether the patient was suffering from some type of sleep disorder or an epileptic seizure, such as a gelastic seizure, a type of seizure involving laughter and giggling.
Some medications, including antidepressants and antipsychotics, can cause sleep laughing as a side effect, but it is not known whether the woman in the study was taking medication.
Stress and anxiety during waking hours can also manifest in various ways during sleep, including laughing.
In rare cases, sleep laughing can be a symptom of a neurological disorder.
Unless it disrupts a person’s sleep or leads to other problems, sleep laughing is usually harmless and does not require treatment.
The woman’s study was published in the journal Sleep medicine and researchers wrote that it “provoked a discussion about… the distinction between parasomnia and seizures.”
Parasomnia is a type of sleep disorder that involves unusual and unwanted physical events or experiences that disrupt a person’s sleep.