Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Somnambulism

I'm a sleep-walker. A somnambulist, if you will.

The first time it happened I was eight or nine. My parents found me wandering around the house one night, turning on all the lights, asking for "the tape."

Then it happened again at least once in high school (this time I was upset that I'd been missing the "soundtrack to my dream"). My mom tried to wake me up and we all learned the lesson about how you're not supposed to try to wake a sleepwalker.

In college my sleep-walking was amusing because living in a dormitory or sorority house meant that there were always plenty of witnesses - people to report what I did or said and where I wandered. I seem to recall the subject matter involving chemistry lab manuals, parking spots and water bottles.

Living alone the last few years has made confirmation of my somnabulatory activities somewhat challenging, but on a few mornings I've awoken with the vague feeling that I had not spent the entire night in my bed. Sometimes I wake up abruptly, sitting on the edge of my bed, as though before I could get my feet under me, my brain said, "Stop."

Recently though, whatever baseline stress or restlessness I have that creates the sleep-walking has manifested itself as hallucinations. Yeah, you read right: I see things. About once a week, ~20 mins after I fall asleep, I open my eyes with a start and there it is. "It" varies, of course. Sometimes it's either a stranger or a child in the doorway. Most often it's a web of spiders or swarm of buzzing insects all around me. I reach out and try to grab them. Sometimes I can part the webs with my hands. A few times I've even spoken to the people. My heart pounds. I can hear my pulse in my ears and feel it in my chest. I tell myself to focus my eyes. And they do focus - quite clearly - on whatever it is I'm seeing. Then just as quickly, I recognize what's happening and I tell myself, calm down, it's not real, and peacefully drift off to sleep... Zzzzzzz.

2 Comments:

At 3:47 PM, April 05, 2006, Anonymous Mom said...

You might be interested in this. Sorry to inform you that it may be heriditary. I had night terrors from early adulthood (20) to about 45. Rarely anymore. I would wake up with my heart pounding and usually screaming. It would take your dad several minutes to calm me down. Scared the heck out of him. Once you came into the room to crawl into bed and triggered one of these events. Then he had two screaming people to calm. Most of the time, for me, it was related to extreme stress. However, you may also want to have your thyroid checked. Or check out a sleep clinic. I'd sure hate for you to wander around Manhattan asleep! Love, Mom

 
At 2:51 AM, April 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scary! I've slept-walked once that I'm aware of and hallucinated once.

I slept walked in middle school at my grandma's house - apparently I woke up from my nap and walked around the house talking to family members in a nonsense language. My stepmom told me to go back to sleep, so I said "Ok" and returned to the couch.

When I was really young (I'm guessing somewhere between 2 and 4), I had a nightmare that I was on a gameshow with flashing lights and everyone had a giant head and small body like in cartoons. I woke up screaming and walked toward my mom's room to sleep with her, but on the way there (which was a distance of about 10 ft.), I saw all the faces following me. It was terrifying, but I told myself that it wasn't real, and slept in my mom's bed.

Thankfully I don't think either situation has happened since. But maybe it has - last year there was a period of a few days in a row where either my bedroom door or Val's bedroom door would be found open in the morning. Neither Val nor I ever figured out what caused it, and it stopped after a few days. For a while we were pretty scared though.

Erin

 

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