Have you ever done something unexpected in the night while you were still asleep. Other people might even have thought you were really awake. If so, you may have a parasomnia.
Millions of people have parasomnias, a type of sleep disorder with sleep-wake transition issues. I’m talking things like sleep walking, sleep talking, and for some people sleep eating.
It can be a very interesting place, the world of parasomnias.
I am a somnambulist, somniloquist, a sometimes insomniac, a radical dreamer, with a touch of narcolepsy just for fun. Don’t you love these words – sounds like something out of a Shakespeare play.
A somnambulist is a sleep walker and to sleep walk is very common among children. I used to sleep walk all the time. I’d get out of bed and head out to the living room where Mum and Dad were watching TV. You have your eyes open when sleep walking and you can see what’s happening but you are trapped in the world of sleep and have no control of what you are doing. It’s like being a puppet with your unconscious pulling the strings.
I shared a bedroom with my sister Lisa when we were kids and she was the primary witness to my somnambulism. One night I was standing in front of the mirror brushing my hair while still asleep. Another time while sleep walking I started attacking her leg.
A somniloquist is a sleep talker. Often the talking is mumbled and hard to decipher. That’s just as well isn’t it?
So what is going on here. The body is not supposed to move when asleep and dreaming, for obvious safety reasons. The brain switches off the bodies ability to move when dreaming. This switch appears to be faulty in the parasomniac.
I am a rabid dreamer and sometimes feel I have dreamt all night and not got any deep sleep. We all dream about 5 times a night during what is called REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep. You can see a sleepers eyes twitch under their lids during REM sleep. Most people only remember the final dream in the morning when they have been woken from sleep by something like an alarm (which has cut into the REM stage). Some ‘well balanced’ people don’t remember their dreams at all.
I love being able to access my dreams but it can play havoc with the next day. I sometimes feel like I am still dreaming during the day (my poem Realm of the REM pretty much sums up what it feels like for me). I can be tired and disoriented, not sure if I’m really awake.
When I was a teenager I had a recurring dream that I was a werewolf and that I was eating people. Quite a nightmare that one and no comfort to my sister whose leg I had attacked. My brother Daniel used to dream he was being attacked by a werewolf.
The other night I dreamt a wolf was circling me in a menacing manner. I walked up to him and pushed his head and body to the ground, effortlessly. He looked up at me and then slinked off, continuing to circle but knowing his place.