5 GIFs That Perfectly Capture The Reality Of Sleep Struggles


24/02/2016 10:29 PM AEDT | Updated 25/02/2016 7:19 AM AEDT

Sleep disorders are common, but they can also be incredibly different and difficult to describe. Enter artist Petra Švajger and illustrator Maja Poljanc, who both suffer from sleep disorders. They perfectly captured the surreal and nightmarish sensation of disordered sleep with their GIF illustration project "Parasomnias."

"I was searching for an inspiration for a new series of cinemagraphs, but because I was so sleep deprived at the time I could not come up with any good ideas," Švajger told The Huffington Post. "Then I realized I could use my lack of sleep as an inspiration."

At least 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep paralysis and restless leg syndrome each year, according to the National Institutes of Health. These disorders can take a huge toll on health, from negatively impacting job performance to contributing to relationship problems and increasing the chance of being injured or having an accident. 

So far, the reaction to the series has been overwhelmingly positive. "I wanted to create a contrast between reality and imagination," Švajger explained.

See Švajger and Poljanc's captivating -- and subtle! -- illustrated GIFs, below:

1. Insomnia

Petra Švajger/Maja Poljanc

Nearly everyone has had trouble falling or staying asleep at some point. If it takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep each night, and you find yourself clocking six or fewer hours of sleep each night for a month, it could be a sign you have insomnia, a condition that afflicts about 60 million Americans every year, according to NPR.

2. Sleep paralysis 

Petra Švajger/Maja Poljanc

Sleep researchers largely agree that sleep paralysis isn't necessarily dangerous, it's just a sign that your body isn't moving through the stages of sleep correctly. Sufferers describe feeling trapped between consciousness and unconsciousness, frozen in a state of neither sleep, nor wakefulness. 

3. Sleep eating

Petra Švajger/Maja Poljanc

People with a nocturnal eating disorder rise in the middle of the night to eat, without waking. Sleep eating can be dangerous because sleep eaters don't remember using kitchen equipment and sometimes consume toxic, non-food items, such as cigarette butts, according to the Mayo Clinic.

4. REM sleep

Petra Švajger/Maja Poljanc

Thankfully, rapid-eye movement sleep isn't a sleep disorder at all. REM sleep, which usually kicks in about 90 minutes after you drift off, happens in cycles throughout the night and is usually when you have your most intense dreams.

5. Restless leg syndrome

Petra Švajger/Maja Poljanc

Up to 10 percent of Americans suffer from restless leg syndrome, which can cause an uncomfortable pins-and-needles feeling in the legs, especially when lying down or sitting. Sufferers often feel compelled to move their legs, which can disrupt their -- and their bed partner's -- sleep.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled Petra Švajger's name.

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