Some people have weird habits.
Some talk to themselves (we’ll easily overlook that as the first stage of insanity and view it as more of a cute quirk for now).
Some bite their nails (also me). Some also sleep walk, sleeptalk. I’m not an avid sleep walker, don’t get me wrong. It happens only once every few months, so it’s still a bit of a novelty.
One of the girls with whom I shared a room in boarding school bought this niche new app that slyly recorded us all as we slept. Surprisingly, no midnight conversations from me, but I was constantly privy to the light snoring and even more absurd sleep-mutterings of five girls. Maybe my sleepwalking knows when it’s being recorded and decides only to rear its head surreptitiously.
My sleepwalking certainly isn’t a new development. Despite highly protesting a 7pm bedtime and futile attempts to escape, I was also occasionally found dreaming whilst out and about the house as a child. Always on a manageable and slightly entertaining level; I’ve certainly never found myself outside, striding down the street at 4am in my pyjamas, or trying to drive (thankfully, I’m bad enough at driving awake).
Sleepwalking appears to be a long-lasting condition (I would use the term chronic but that makes it sound like an insufferable disease, whereas my experience so far has been amusing and hardly detrimental). I did go through a period in halls, in which I woke up once outside my flatmates room, clawing on the door in the middle of the night like something fresh out of The Shining. You probably already know that I touted earplugs for a good night’s sleep in a previous blog post. I’ve also woken up in the middle of the night and found myself stuffing said earplugs into my mouth in a more bizarre episode of sleep walking (thankfully I woke up before anything was swallowed).
As amusing as sleepwalking is, it begs the question of what exactly the cause is, and why only a select few experience the joys of waking up wholly disorientated, midst cooking a haute cuisine meal, or trying to shave the cat (don’t panic – I haven’t made it as far as either of these – yet).
Somnambulism is the proper term. Sleepwalkers tend to be out and about in the deep stages of NREM sleep. 1-15% of the population is said to experience these onsets, and it is much more prevalent in children than in adults. The exact cause remains uncertain, but some scientists speculate that it is a repercussion of the brain trying to go from the deepest stage of sleep, directly to wakefulness, without reversing through the stages of the sleep cycle. Alcohol and antidepressants exacerbate nocturnal wanderings,
Sleepwalking horror stories are abundant. It’s pretty easy to bring to the stand as a form of defence for larger scale crimes – for who could surely prove whether or not you were conscious, or comatose, disregarding the blood on your hands.
One thing is for sure – the impression that waking a sleepwalker is dangerous is a common myth. It’s always better to wake your dozing friend if you find them ambling about the hall at night.