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Sleep Tips

Bedtime Stories & Fairytales Part 1: Disney Characters with Sleep Disorders

In many Disney classics, a princess is awoken from a deep sleep when she’s kissed by her knight in shining armor. We got to thinking, and realized that in a lot of the Disney fairytales, there’s some sort of nod to sleepiness – whether a princess is under a sleeping spell or her sidekick has a serious case of the yawns. We aren’t the only ones who noticed this trend, neurologist Dr. Alex Iranzo, MD, sleep expert Dr. Carlos H. Schenck and Disney expert Jorge Fonte, collaborated on a study on all of the Disney characters with signs of sleeping disorders. In part one of our “Bedtime Stories & Fairytales,” let’s dive into this study and what characters may be struggling with more than an evil spell.

Aurora from Sleeping Beauty

Let’s start with the obvious – Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. Now, of course, Aurora was put under a spell and didn’t choose to sleep for a prolonged period of time. If she were a real human, her chronic sleepiness would raise concern and her doctor would prescribe a little more than a true love’s kiss.

6 of Snow White’s 7 Dwarfs

Another obvious is Snow White’s dwarf Sleepy. Sleepy’s eyelids are constantly drooping, he is frequently yawning and he is often found sleeping, even when he shouldn’t be. Sleepy has a case of chronic hypersomnia, often a result of “self-imposed sleep deprivation” and can be caused by insomnia, narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome. As it turns out, Sleepy is not the only one with sleep issues – you’ll remember from the classic story that Grumpy can never get a good night’s sleep because he is constantly interrupted by the snoring of Doc, Dopey, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy. Not only does it disrupt Grumpy’s sleep, but it is also proven that snoring can cause awakenings at night, daytime sleepiness and can even be a sign of sleep apnea in the sleeper. Snow White’s dwarfs are known for their hard work day in and out. They definitely need quality sleep, but it seems like Bashful is the only one catching his Zzz’s.

Gepetto and Jiminy Cricket

We can add Gepetto and Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio to the mix of those whose sleep is disrupted by snoring. Gepetto and his fish snore so loudly that it often keeps Jiminy Cricket from falling asleep. Jiminy Cricket may need to invest in a sound machine or suggest some nose strips for the sake of his and Gepetto’s sleeping sanity.

Cinderella’s dog, Bruno

In a time when there wasn’t much known about sleep disorders, Walt Disney and his animators did an unknowingly excellent job of portraying what would later be identified as REM Sleep Behavioral Disorder (RBD) in the 1980s. In the 1950 Disney classic Cinderella, her dog Bruno can be seen acting out his dreams while still asleep. Typically during REM sleep, our muscles are temporarily paralyzed so this movement is odd. In RBD, this paralysis doesn’t occur, making it possible to act out our dreams.

Trusty from Lady and the Tramp


Similar to Bruno, Trusty shows signs of RBD by acting out his dreams. Trusty also begins to lose his memory which could possibly be a link between RBD and other neurological conditions. The exact cause of RBD is unknown, although the disorder may occur in association with various degenerative neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease and multisystem atrophy, as well as, alcohol or sedative-hypnotic withdrawal.

 

Luckily, these animated characters do not actually have any of these sleep disorders, but if you see yourself in any of these descriptions, it may be time to consult a sleep therapist. Unlike in a Disney story, a sleep condition will probably not lead to a “Happily Ever After.”

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