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Q: Pillow headbutting ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Pillow headbutting
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: stevec00-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 31 Oct 2003 04:29 PST
Expires: 30 Nov 2003 04:29 PST
Question ID: 271379
I am interested in the phenomenon of pillow headbutting! My partner
sometimes wakes me up and is headbutting the pillow up to about 10
times. I'm sure she's not the only one as I saw part of a BBC
programme about sleeping habits a while back where a bloke was doing
the same thing (except much more regularly). Is this caused by stress
or alcohol? Is it related to having a bad dream? Can it be cured? Any
articles would be helpful - I tried a couple of searches on google and
haven't come up with anything so far...
Subject: Re: Pillow headbutting
Answered By: byrd-ga on 31 Oct 2003 15:24 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi Steve,

I’ll *bet* you’re interested in this phenomenon, considering that it
affects your sleep too!  And you’re right, your partner is not the
only person so afflicted, though this particular problem is relatively
rare in adults.

Head butting, or “head banging” as it’s more commonly called, is
usually found in very young children.  Therefore, very little of such
information as is available on this phenomenon is targeted toward
adults who suffer this problem.  You’re right – it’s not easy to find
any at all.  However, though rare, this problem is not unheard of in
adults, and there is a little information available.  I’ll give you
links to the articles I was able to find in hopes they may help to
shed a little light for you.

It may be helpful to know that all problems involving something that
disrupts sleep, whether it be head butting, or breathing difficulties,
or even sleepwalking, fall under a broad category of what are known as
sleep disorders.  This particular one further comes under the heading
of parasomnias (as opposed to some other types of sleep disorders),
and is then further classified as a “sleep-wake transition disorder.”
Although in your partner’s case, the problem manifests itself in
butting the pillow, overall it has many variations and is called by
several names, which include “jactacio capitis nocturna,” or “rhythmic
movement disorder,” or sometimes “stereotypic movement disorder,”
though this latter usually refers to a different problem.

As you'll see, very little is known about exactly what causes it, and
no, it doesn't appear to be caused by stress or alcohol or bad dreams
or anything else that might seem obvious. The good news is that it
really doesn't appear to have any particular medical or psychiatric
cause; the bad news is that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot that
can be done about it.  Some of the links below suggest that some
drugs, such as Valium, might be effective.  However, please see the
disclaimer below, and understand that this is general information only
and is not intended to substitute for professional advice.  If the
problem continues, you and your partner should probably consult a
health professional, or perhaps inquire at a sleep disorders clinic.


“The International Classification of Sleep Disorders:” 
Another classification and description of sleep disorders:

Description/definition of “head banging” as a rhythmic movement
disorder: (scroll a little more
than halfway down the page)

Parasomnia information: 
A review of various parasomnias:
(scroll down to the bottom)
“An Introduction to Parasomnias:”
(scroll to bottom)

Interesting discussion between adults with and affected by rhythmic
movement disorder (on a sleep disorders forum):

References for sleep professionals: 
National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (not much there right now,
but that may change in future):

Other resources for info about sleep and sleep disorders:
Sleep Net 
National Sleep Foundation 
The Sleep Medicine Home Page 


I hope this information will be of some help to you in understanding
your partner’s difficulty.  Please use the “Request Clarification”
feature to ask if you don’t understand something before rating and
closing the question, so I can be sure you’re satisfied with the
information provided.  Best of luck to both of you – I hope you’ll
both find a way to sleep well despite these nocturnal disturbances!


Search strategy:

First I tried searching on “head butting” OR “head banging” and didn’t
get much.  Then I tried various combinations of sleep, problems,
movements, “head banging” and “sleep movements” until I found a site
that mentioned “sleep disorders” and gave the following terms, which
resulted in the most appropriate information:

“jactacio capitis nocturna” OR “stereotypic movement disorder” OR
“rhythmic movement disorder”

Reading the results of these searches, I then searched using the term
“sleep wake transition disorders” to locate further information. 

Other search terms used:
sleep problems
sleep movements
sleep disorders
sleep medicine
movements nocturnal OR sleep
stevec00-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Excellent answer, thanks v. much for your time & effort

There are no comments at this time.

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