We think of sleep as a time for rest, a treasured time of the day when we can rest away from the world or as a time for the body to recharge itself. And we’re supposed to come out healthier, feeling better and more alive from each successful night of sleep. But for some people, getting a good night’s sleep can end in tragedy, crime, or even death.
Carlos Schenck is the professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He has recorded and cataloged many bizarre sleep stories from around the world. “You don’t have to extrapolate very far to connect what we see on a routine clinical basis weekly. To saying that if this went a little bit further, this could easily have resulted in violent or injurious behavior,” according to Mark Mahowald of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center.
During sleep-walking episodes, brain-waves neither show full-sleep nor full wakefulness, according to Schnenck. People acting from sleep disorders are usually in a state of slow-wave consciousness. One part of the brain is awake while the other part is asleep. They don’t feel pain. And they’re judgement is usually non-functioning. But they can complete complex motor behaviors.
From driving a car to jumping out of windows, these are 10 insanely weird things people do in their sleep.
Researchers from the University of Toledo say a woman rose from a slow-wave sleep. With little consciousness, she logged into her computer, emailing party invitations to friends. They call it “ZZZ-mailing,” and it’s the only case reported of its kind. The woman fell asleep around 10 p.m. Two hours later, she composed a total of three emails. One read, “Come tomorrow and sort this hell hole out. Dinner and drinks, 4 p.m. Bring wine and caviar only.” Another email said, “What the…”.
She had no history of sleepwalking as a child. She was understandably shocked the next morning when her friend called, accepting her invitation. Sleepwalkers often have little to no memory of what they did the morning after. Their consciousness is in an altered state. But they can still do complex tasks. Researchers say prescription medications could have been the cause of her “Zzz-mailing.”
9. Jumping Out Of Windows
Sufferers of “REM sleep behavior disorder” often act out their dreams. Living a dream is often seen as a good thing, but in this case it is not. Once in 2007, a sleeping teenager sleep-walked out of a four-story window and fell about 30 feet to the ground. He didn’t notice his fall and continued sleeping on the sidewalk. The boy had not taken any drugs or alcohol.
Comedian Mike Birbiglia once jumped out of a second-story hotel window while asleep. He woke up covered in gashes after stumbling into the hotel lobby. He required 33 stitches and became diagnosed with REM sleep behavior disorder. Birbiglia admits he sleep-walked for years before the diagnosis. “I [often] remember thinking this, ‘This seems dangerous. Maybe I should see a doctor.’ And then I would think, ‘Maybe I’ll [just] eat dinner.’ And I went with dinner for years,” he said.
8. Real-Life Sleeping Beauties
Victims of Kleine Levin Syndrome are often dubbed “real-life sleeping beauties.” Its victims are literally sleeping their lives away. When they wake, they try to gradually return to normal. It often isn’t an easy road. Bouts of sleep can last a couple of days or up to eight months! It’s often a lot of confusion, described as one endless dream. In the rare moments they are awake, behavior becomes uninhibited. They sing show-tunes. Cry about nothing. Eat excessively. And regress into child-like states.
After rising from long bouts of sleep, they try being normal people. They can go weeks and months without having an episode, returning to completing complex tasks with normal cognitive function. Some are 10 pounds heavier, a little bit slower, or behind in school and work tasks. KLS sufferers can seek treatment, although regular attacks of sleeping beauty syndrome may never completely go away.
7. Sleep Driving
Ambien is a popular prescription sleeping pill. It’s also showing up in a greater number of traffic arrests. Users on Ambien can do bizarre things. Drivers on Ambien tend to stand out from other under-the-influence motorists, especially if Ambien was over-dosed or abused. “These cases are just extremely bizarre, with extreme impairment,” according to Laura J. Liddicoat, a forensic toxicologist.
Ambien driving behaviors include driving in the wrong direction, slamming into light poles, and seeming oblivious to police officers. Two times within the last decade users have woken up sleep-driving into supermarkets. Once a registered nurse hit a car. She wore only a thin nightshirt while enduring 20-degree weather. She then urinated in the middle of an intersection. When police came, she started fighting them. Drivers are often found with zombie-like stares. Rarely do they have any memory of taking the wheel after taking the drug.
6. Ondine’s Curse
Seventeen-year-old Liam Derbyshire has Ondine’s Curse. It only happens to 1 in 30 million people. Ondine’s Curse is a disorder in which a person stops breathing when they fall asleep. If they fall asleep, they may die within one hour. In 2006, there were only about 200 cases known worldwide. Patients need a tracheostomy, which means doctors stick a tube in the neck to help breathing. Patients also spend a lifetime near mechanical ventilation to survive. Whenever they do fall asleep, a machine plugs into the tubes to assure breathing. Liam’s parents must make sure he doesn’t get tired or nod off for a nap. And when they go for a drive, his parents must constantly watch him, while also watching the road, making sure he stays awake. Ondine’s Curse is so rare, many physicians have never seen a case of it, and may miss the diagnosis.
Sexsomnia is a sleep disorder where people have sex in their sleep. Sexsomnia occurs many of the times to people with a history of sleep disorders. Eight per cent of patients seeking treatment for sleep disorders report Sexsomnia. It affects only about 1.5 per cent of the general population. Most cases involved men. Like sleep-walking, many times a person won’t remember what they did the night before. “The ordinary inhibitions that confine them to a routine pattern of sexual behavior when they are awake aren’t there. So they’re more adventurous and will do partner-pleasing stuff they don’t ordinarily do,” according to Michael Mangan, PhD.
Sexsomnia includes fondling, vocalization, moaning, and full-on intercourse. It can also raise issues of consent, and be harmful to a partner. Some may question who the sleep-sexer is dreaming about during the act. And in some cases, it’s just plain annoying for the other person in bed.
4. Climbing Great Heights
Someone saw a silhouette curled up on the counterweight of a crane. Onlookers thought it was someone attempting suicide. The person was high up above ground and it was 2 a.m. Turns out, it was a girl asleep on top of a narrow metal beam crane. She likely walked out of her home unnoticed. The security guard did not see her. And she managed to sleep-climb 130 feet to the top of the crane. The entire time she was completely unaware that she was in a dangerous predicament – and on the brink of death. A fireman climbed up but could not wake her up. Waking her could cause her to panic and fall to her death. It took two hours to rescue her. Rescuers brought her down by hydraulic lift and she suffered no injuries. Upon her rescue, her parents said that she was a frequent sleep-walker.
3. Night Terrors
Night terrors are exactly what they sound like. While nightmares are common, night terrors only occur in 1 to 6 per cent of children and less than 1 per cent of adults. They occur during the first hours of stage three-four non-rapid eye movement sleep. Night terrors usually begin in early childhood and dissipate during adolescence. Episodes can occur in intervals of days or weeks, occurring over consecutive nights and many times in one night.
Onlookers describe the parasomniacs as “bolting upright.” Keeping their eyes wide open. There is a look of fear or panic on their face. And they often scream. They may scream at anyone in the vicinity. Or they’ll just scream into the air. They usually sweat and have a rapid heart rate. They punch and kick and show “fleeing” motions, like they’re running away from something. Communication or consolation is impossible during episodes, because after all, they aren’t awake.
On record, there were 68 cases of homicidal sleep-walking up to the year 2005. In the wee hours of the morning, on May 23, 1987, Kenneth Parks got up from his bed. He then sleep-drove 14 miles to his in-law’s home and broke in. While there, he strangled his father-in-law until he passed out. Then he struck his mother-in-law with a tire iron, before murdering her with a kitchen knife. Amazingly, he then sleep-drove to the police station. Covered in blood and panicking. The tendons on his hands were all severed in half from the kitchen knife. But he did not show signs of pain. Parks’ EEG readings were irregular even for a parasomniac. No one can fake those types of EEG results, and he felt no pain in his hands. The court concluded he was sleep-walking during the entire incident.
1. Create Masterpiece Works of Art
Lee Hadwin has been a sleep-walker since childhood. So it’s not surprising that he has a parasomniatic double-life. He started doing simple drawings in his sleep at the age of 4-years old. It wasn’t until he reached his teens when the drawings became more intricate. They call him “Kipasso,” and he says he feels like he’s in a strange place, saying he has no real interest in art or drawing while he’s awake. And he can’t remember anything he does while asleep.
When he’s not sleeping, he’s a nurse. He also has played in a country western band, claiming he’s more interested in music than art. “I simply cannot explain where my art comes from. It’s as if another part of my brain kicks in when I am asleep,” says Hadwin. And like all parasomniacs, if you call his name while he’s sleep-drawing, he won’t answer.