Sleep has always been a cruel mistress for me.
I love sweet, dreamy slumber, but sleep has not always returned my affections.
As a kid I would have vivid dreams in which I would awake kicking and screaming—sometimes in fear; sometimes in excitement. More than once I woke up in the bathroom or hallway with no memory of going there. Sometimes my sister—with whom I’d always shared a room—would nudge me in the ribs and tell me to roll over because I was snorting or jabbering away in her ear.
For as long as I can remember, I have awoken gasping for air, sucking hard and horrifically loud for oxygen, unable to breath. One of two recurring dreams would send me spiraling into this hell: I was either being crushed in a car wreck or I was drowning in a large body of water—usually from going off the side of a bridge.
In college, after I learned the glories of beer, I began drunkenly sleepwalking. Once, my roommate’s boyfriend found me in the hallway of our apartment standing so close to the wall that my nose was almost touching our Jim Morrison poster. He was a little creeped out and summoned my roommate, who was used to my antics and just led me back to bed.
“That’s just something she does,” she had explained.
“Does she ever leave the house?” he asked.
“Well, she hasn’t yet.”
Thank god, I generally did not go on walkabouts.
I was young, stupid and found most of these incidents hilarious, but now I see how easily I could have wondered into the street or, worse, gotten behind the wheel of a car. All while completely asleep.
Sleeping like the (walking) dead
The following is a short list of completely true things that I’ve done while sleeping:
Purchased red, butt-bedazzled capri jeans roughly 10 sizes too small on Amazon.com. I can’t exactly recall this detail, but the pants were from something like “The Jersey Shore Collection.” I returned the pants, but not the shame.
Escaped from a fancy guesthouse filled with expensive antiques, which all miraculously survived, to be roused from a tequila-fueled sleepwalk after my 15-year class reunion. When I awoke, my two best friends from childhood were slapping my face, and I was soaking wet on a balcony overlooking a beautiful fountain. Draw your own conclusions on that one. This incident was very recent and also one of the only times in my sleepwalking career I left the safety of my accommodations—I think.
Peed in a chair. It was a cloth recliner located at someone else’s house. It is one of those incidents that in order to preserve the friendship you do your best to correct the problem (buy them a new chair) then never speak of it again.
Baked and iced a three-layer cake from scratch. This one still blows my mind because I didn’t have the right pans or even a recipe, nor have I ever made a cake from scratch. Yet, the next morning our kitchen was covered in a two-inch layer of flour and pretty much every dish I owned was dirty. Three weeks later I found eggshells in a hand painted decorative canister. But that cake was delicious.
After a lifetime of sleep-insanity, I finally manned up and went to a doctor, who—after a battery of hilariously failed tests—diagnosed my sleep issues, most of which were attributed to plain, old, boring sleep apnea. Now at night I wear a very sexy mask, which my husband loving refers to as my “fighter pilot” ensemble. But going full-on Top Gun doesn’t always stop my antics, especially if I’ve had even one drink, prescriptions like Ambien, pain medications or even over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol PM. Any one of those tiny things can send me talking or wandering unconsciously.
Another sure-fire way to send me spiraling into sleep antics: Changing my nightly routine. I’m a riot around the holidays when we spend a few days at my parents or at my in-laws with all of our siblings and their families. I’m the wildcard. You might find me staring at the Christmas tree or eating Parmesan cheese straight off the block or tucked neatly into our bed, snoozing away. You just never know what you’re getting.
What do you call a sleepwalking nun? A roamin’ Catholic
Crazy sleep is a family affair.
My daddy sleep eats and famously slept walked into the bedroom closet only to awake having no idea where he was or how he’d gotten there. My mama rescued him after he started knocking on the closet wall and screaming her name. Once, when he was a boy, he sleepwalked into his parent’s crowded living room, lifted the cushion from a chair, then peed in it. When he was finished, he politely lowered the cushion and returned to bed. It was the most exciting prayer meeting the Baptists ever had.
One morning Mama woke to find the refrigerator door open and a pack of half-eaten raw ground beef on the kitchen floor. That was it. She was done. She drew the line at raw hamburger meat. Daddy was going to have to address his sleep issues.
But Daddy steadfastly denied he would eat RAW hamburger meat. He might be a crazy sleeper, but he wasn’t a monster, he protested.
Maybe it was the dog! Raccoon invaders?! Not him, though, he argued.
Regardless, the evidence was on the floor, and Mama was unwavering: It was time to seek professional help. So off Daddy went to get a sleep study, which yielded off-the-chart positive results.
Meanwhile, though, Mama had discovered that the rather elderly family dog—a majestic half-beagle, half-bluetick hound named Susie—had, in fact, learned how to use her long snout to open the refrigerator door and make her own snacks. Awkward. It totally WAS the dog.
Sorry Daddy, but all signs pointed to you. You are right, you were wrongly accused; let the record denote your exoneration. You were innocent—this time.
Do you have any sleepwalking, or better yet sleep-writing, stories of your own? Please share them in the comments below.
Photo by Jovan J
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