I have been sleepwalking for as long as I can remember, and I am not alone. It is a relatively common thing to do, and according to research affects around 15% of children, whilst 30% of adults claim to have experienced sleepwalking at least once.
After writing a feature at work about a “A Sleepwalking Artist” – a guy who creates masterpieces in his sleep, which he sells for thousands (besides leaving paper and paint by my bed…) it got me thinking about my own sleepwalking experiences.
During my countless night time adventures there are those that I am fully aware of but believe at the time I should be doing. Then those that I have absolutely no recollection of at all, only knowing about it because I have been told by someone who saw me.
My mum has found me sleepwalking from around the age of 5, but the first time that stands out for me was when I was a few years older. I went into my parents room, waking my dad up to tell him there was a feather on the roof, apparently adamant I couldn’t go to sleep until he got it down, only leaving when he told me he would.
Things you do as you walk in your sleep can be funny, but they can also be scary and embarrassing too.
There have been situations in which I was scared to go to sleep for fear of what could happen if I walked in my sleep. One particular time I was on a school trip to Ardèche and we were sleeping outside, just metres away from a sharp drop down to rocky fast flowing water. Safe to say, despite sleeping tightly between two of my friends, I was still pretty scared to close my eyes. *Spoiler* I made it through the night!
Others times have simply been embarrassing, such as during a primary school trip when I woke up on the top bunk in the boys room (luckily a bed they were just using for storage), having thrown everything on to the floor. I was absolutely mortified and woke my friend up to help me clear it up, swearing her to secrecy. I find this more funny than embarrassing now, but at 10 years old this was horrifying.
Then others have just been highly amusing, such as on a 6 week trip to Thailand when walking/talking or both happened in my sleep nearly every night, as due to travelling we were sleeping in different beds – which for me seems to be a main trigger. One particular night I fell asleep before my friend and started “choking”, she asked me what I was choking on and I said I had a bone in my throat. Obviously aware I was asleep she went on to ask what it tasted like, to which I replied “disgusting!” Or the time my mum found me wandering the house and as she led me back to my room, I cried with laughter at the fact my brother was in bed when I was off to a “PARTY”… or so I thought.
It’s a weird and wonderful thing- it can certainly make for a more interesting nights sleep, but also an extremely tiring next day – well who wouldn’t be tired after heading to a “party” in the middle of the night?
I pictured myself as the “typical” sleepwalker – eyes shut with arms outstretched in front – although I have since been informed that I could be awake if it weren’t for the nonsense coming out my mouth and the actions in the middle of the night. Luckily I never faked sleepwalking as I got older in order to get away with sneaking in at 4am after a night out.
On the other hand I also get sleep paralysis (luckily not as often as I walk in my sleep) because as funny as I find hearing the stories of my night time adventure, this is pretty scary. I actually didn’t know until recently what this was – and reading up on it, my experiences are nowhere near as bad as some.
Sleep paralysis has only ever happened to me when I am waking up during the night – it feels like someone is sat on your body and you can’t move, you want to scream but nothing comes out. Effectively your brain has woken up, but your body hasn’t, so although your mind is telling your arms and legs to move, they don’t. Terrifying, or so I thought, until I read other stories from people who have experienced sleep paralysis that included hallucinations – such as seeing figures in front of them.
I looked into both sleepwalking and paralysis, more out of interest than anything else. For me, although the paralysis is not always a pleasant experience, it is fairly rare and sleepwalking doesn’t bother me at all.
According to the NHS website – sleepwalking occurs when you are in the deepest part of sleep, usually in the first few hours after you have fallen asleep – sleep paralysis on the other hand occurs when you are waking up – the mechanism that causes your muscles to relax during sleep temporarily persists after you have woken up – so although your mind is awake your body isn’t, causing you to feel paralysed.
Whilst sleep paralysis is more common in teenagers and adults, sleepwalking is more likely to occur in children, but can continue into adulthood.
Many of the suspected causes of sleepwalking are the same as those for sleep paralysis, such as sleep deprivation and irregular sleep patterns.
There are ways you can attempt to improve the symptoms of the two including: keeping to a regular sleeping routine and creating a restful sleeping environment.