One thing that not many people know about me is that I am a sleepwalker. When I tell someone about my nocturnal habit, they usually have a host of questions about it. As it’s a topic that I find really fascinating, I’ve decided that it would be really fun to write about my sleepwalking to answer some of the questions I’m commonly asked.
When did you start sleepwalking?
My sleepwalking started when I was a very small child, probably about five or six years old. My father was watching television one night when he saw me walk down to the kitchen, stand around for a while and then go back to bed. That was the first time that I know of that I had walked in my sleep.
What do you do when you sleepwalk?
It depends. Most of the time I just get up, walk around for a bit and then go back to bed. Often I will head to the kitchen and pour myself a drink of water while I’m still sleeping. Sometimes, I will rearrange things in my room, or open and close drawers. Occasionally, I will do really strange things in my sleep. When I was working at a restaurant a few years ago, I used to waitress in my sleep. Ross would wake up to find me walking about, picking up and putting down imaginary plates and cutlery! I’ve also moved small pieces of furniture and thrown things in my sleep.
How often do you sleepwalk?
I actually don’t sleepwalk very often. I usually go through periods where I sleepwalk three or four nights out of the week, and then I won’t sleepwalk again for months. It happens in fits and bursts.
It’s also interesting to note that I’ve only ever sleepwalked in my own home. I have never gone sleep walking while I’ve been on holidays or staying with a friend (so it’s safe to invite me for a sleepover!).
What causes your sleepwalking?
I don’t know for certain. The one thing that really seems to have a strong link with my sleepwalking is stress. I tend to sleepwalk when there’s something that I’m really anxious or worried about. Most of the time, I will dream about the thing that’s stressing me out, and then I’ll start to act it out in my sleep. For example, when I was working as a waitress, I would wait tables in my sleep. I hated that job and it caused me a lot of stress and anxiety, to the point where I was even anxious in my sleep. It’s as though I get so nervous about something that my brain just won’t let go of it, even while I’m asleep. It’s really tiring. I know that something is really bothering me if I start to act it out while sleepwalking.
What does it feel like to sleepwalk?
I don’t really know what it feels like to sleepwalk, because I’m totally unaware while I’m doing it. I’m not really conscious or in control of my body when it’s happening. I think that the best way to describe it is that I feel totally absorbed by the dream that I’m having, to the point where I think I’m actually in the dream.
However, I should point out that I’m not totally unconscious, because if you talk to me while I’m sleepwalking, I’ll reply. I’ve had whole conversations with people while I’ve been fast asleep, which I don’t remember when I wake up.
Do you know when you’ve been sleepwalking?
Sometimes, if Ross is staying with me, he will see me sleepwalk and he’ll tell me the next morning. Also, my parents and my brother have seen me sleepwalking and let me know after the fact.
If I’m on my own, I can still usually tell if I’ve been sleepwalking. Sometimes there are physical clues, such as things in my room being moved about. A couple of times, when I’ve been worried about my exams, I have awakened to find all of my books stacked next to my desk and my bag packed for the exam- even though it was a week away. I might find a glass of water next to my bed or a drawer open, which will alert me that I’ve been sleepwalking.
Even if there are no physical cues, I have a certain feeling when I’ve been sleepwalking. I usually awake with a tight, anxious feeling in my chest, and a vague, hazy mood. I will also feel really tired after sleepwalking, because I don’t really get a restful nights sleep when I’ve been walking about. Sometimes, I might recall a detail of a dream I had, which will start a flood of memories about my nocturnal adventures.
Is it true that you should never wake a sleepwalker?
Unless they’re going to do something dangerous, I would not recommend that you wake a sleepwalker. I’ve been woken up several times and it’s awful. Once my brother woke me up by accident. Three more times I’ve woken myself. The first was when I was sleep-waitressing, and I walked over to my bedroom door. I believed that it was the swinging door at the restaurant, so I kicked it with my foot to open it. The door stayed shut and I awoke with the pain in my foot. Another time I was shifting a chair from one side of my room to another and I dropped it on my foot and the pain woke me up. The last time I was dreaming that I was playing dodgeball, and I hurled a shoe at my wall, and the sound of it woke me.
Waking while you’re sleepwalking is a terrible experience. I don’t recall ever feeling so disorientated and confused in my whole life. Because you’re not conscious of what you’re doing while you’re sleepwalking, your mind thinks that you’re supposed to be in bed. When you’re suddenly in another room, and you don’t remember how you got there or what you’re doing, it’s incredibly confusing. I’ve had anxiety attacks upon waking from sleepwalking, it’s such a stressful experience.
Have you ever done anything dangerous while you’ve been sleepwalking?
Not really. I’ve never gone outside and I rarely leave my bedroom. The most dangerous thing I’ve done is shifted furniture and dropped it on myself, or nearly broken something (like my television).
Can you stop yourself from sleepwalking?
I can’t really stop my sleepwalking. It happens without my control, so I can’t easily stop myself from doing it. I know that if there’s something that’s stressing me out to the point that I’m sleepwalking, I need to address it. Once the stressful situation has subsided, my sleeping patterns go back to normal pretty quickly. The best way for me to prevent my sleepwalking is by monitoring my anxiety levels and taking good care of my mental health.
When I’m in the middle of sleep-walking, Ross has figured out a way to get me to stop. As I mentioned before, I can hear people talk while I’m sleepwalking, and I’ll respond. Ross has found that if he asks me what I’m doing, I’ll tell him. I will explain exactly what activity I think I’m doing. Then, all he has to do is tell me that he’s already taken care of it, and I don’t need to worry about it anymore. Nine times out of ten, I’ll come right back to bed and sleep soundly after he’s done this. He’s a clever guy.
Do you have any questions for me about my sleepwalking? Have you ever sleepwalked?