Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sleep is Overrated

For as long as I can remember I have been a sleepwalker. I recall unbelievable stories from my childhood that were told to me by my mother. I vaguely remember walking across the hallway from my room to hers, slamming into her bedroom door, and crumpling to the floor in a heap. I barely remember (again) walking from my bedroom to hers, pulling my pants down, and squatting over her trashcan to use it as a toilet, only to have her desperate screams wake me just in time as she guided me towards the bathroom. I must have been 8 years old. I remember seeing my mother blocking the top of the stairs with furniture to prevent me from sleepwalking down them. It didn't work. She found me walking in circles at the bottom of the stairs claiming (when asked) that I was watching TV.

I wasn't always mobile. Once my mother peeked into my bedroom to find me sitting up in bed with my arms stretched out in front of me. She asked what I was doing, and I angrily explained, "I'm going to a wedding!" She inquired whose wedding it was, and I replied, "Santa Clause's!!" Why so angry? I've always wondered why my sleepwalking antics are usually accompanied by desperation and frustration. My tone of voice is apparently always grumpy or panicky, even today.

I read an article that stated that most people outgrow sleepwalking during childhood or adolescence. So why am I an exception? If anything, my sleepwalking has escalated, and the frequency has most definitely increased during my adulthood. Early in my marriage, I would often leap out of bed to turn on the bedroom light (in the middle of the night, of course) because I was certain there was a humongous spider descending upon my face. As soon as the room was illuminated I would wake up to find myself standing by the light switch in fear, and my sleepy husband would be staring back at me from the bed wondering what in the world was happening. This episode happened repeatedly.

One night, about 6 years ago, I  began slapping my husband on the shoulder as he slept, trying desperately to wake him. I was certain there was a helium balloon floating near the ceiling of our bedroom, and it was dangerously close to the ceiling fan. I was desperate, and he could hear the panic in my voice as I interrupted his sleep. I have never seen him move so fast. He jumped to his feet and stood on his pillow and began swatting at the "balloon" near the ceiling. His abrupt movement and throwing back of the sheets woke me from my episode, and I then began to laugh hysterically as I watched him swat at the imaginary balloon that, just moments before, I could see clear as day. He soon realized what had happened and was not amused. He covered himself back up and attempted to resume his REM sleep. Unfortunately, I had a horrible case of the giggles. That was the one and only time that I had pulled him into my sleeping imagination. I still laugh myself to tears just thinking of that night.

When I was 8 months pregnant with our youngest child in 2010, I moved faster than any enormously pregnant woman has ever moved. I jumped out of bed and began crawling in panic-stricken circles on the floor. Once again, my movement woke up my husband. It was the funniest yet confusing thing he had ever seen, he later said. He asked me what I was doing, and I began explaining, "The machine! The machine is gonna get me!" He asked me what machine, and I did not know its name. I described it as a round, robot-vacuum that was relentlessly chasing me. He became amused when he realized I was describing a Rumba. I have been weary of these machines ever since.

Most recently... just last night actually... I awoke at 2am to find myself banging on the closet door, desperately yelling for help. This time my husband was away, so he was unable to witness what must have been quite the scene. Once I snapped out of my episode I realized that I had stripped the bed of all the sheets, and they were all on the floor. I quickly became annoyed because before I could go back to sleep I had to make the bed. Today I am very tired.

I do not know why people sleepwalk. I wish I did because I am certain I would feel much more rested on a daily basis if I could actually sleep the whole night through consistently. I wonder what a video camera would capture during the night. I usually only remember the moment right before I wake up and find myself in a strange place... the floor, in front of the closet, by the light switch, or even in bed watching my husband swatting at imaginary balloons... I wish there was a cure. Although, if there was, there would be significantly less stories to tell later!