Anyone who's had trouble sleeping knows the wild, even borderline creepy ways a night without shut-eye can affect your body. Designer Petra Švajger's project Parasomnias depicts the unsettling sensations associated with different sleep disorders in GIF form. They're stark, eerie, and the idea came to her in a completely organic way. In a conversation over email, Švajger says her own battles with sleep inspired her: "It hit me I should just do the series about my lack of sleep." Though her lack of sleep stems from her creative process, she decided to look into other sleep issues, like restless leg syndrome, sleep paralysis, and sleep eating.
Švajger worked with illustrator Maja Poljanc to enhance the GIFs, explaining that she "wanted to create the contrast between the reality and things that seem real but are not... Maja’s illustrations represent the product of sleep disorders. In some cases, unreal feelings, like crawling sensation on our feet, hallucinations, and more pleasant ones like dreams in REM stage of sleep." This mingling of real images and illustrations emphasizes how surreal sleep disorders can feel, but also how even the "normal" things that happen to us while we sleep are worth exploring. Indeed, Švajger believes there's something inherently mysterious about the phenomenon of sleep, where we walk the line between "states of part consciousness and unconsciousness."
To add context to Švajger's GIFs, I spoke with Rebecca Scott, PhD, a sleep specialist at the New York Sleep Institute. Ahead, she offers her medical perspective on each one of Švajger's dreamy depictions.