“Mommy! I’m awake because it is three thirty in the morning!” were the words that woke me up from a deep sleep last night. At first, I was angry. My son is not to wake up until 5:15 a.m. every morning, and he was one hour and forty five minutes early – too early for this family of early risers.
I sat up and looked at the clock. It was 3:30 a.m. I then looked at my little boy’s legs as he stood next to his dad’s side of the bed. His pants were off. Oh, crap, I thought to myself as a feeling of familiarity sunk in. He knows that he is not supposed to get up until 5:15 a.m. He knows that he has to put his jam-jam pants back on before he leaves his bedroom, too. That could only mean one thing: he’d inherited my penchant for sleepwalking.
As a kid, my mother and older sister had told me that I was a sleepwalker and a sleep talker, but I didn’t give their reports much credence as I had no memory of it (and probably because I didn’t believe I could do something that stupid). However, I would marvel at the stories about my little brother’s sleepwalking. My mom’s story of his leaving the house and walking to a 7/11 in his tighty-whiteies at four a.m. was a shocking one. My brother did not remember the events of that night at all, which made me wonder if my mother and sister were right about my own unconscious nighttime activities.
I was a teenager when I started “remembering” my sleep walking and sleep talking episodes. The mornings after, my older sister (who I shared a room with) would tell me about what I’d said and done. Apparently, one particular night, I’d wrapped my bed sheet around my waist before going to my mother’s room to yell at her. In shock, I asked my sister what I’d said. She said that I told my mom that I was tired of her yelling at us all of the time, because it was all she did. That sounded like the truth, as my mom did yell at us a lot back then. Other times, I would wake up in the morning and find that I was sleeping in my mom’s bed. I’d ask her how I got there and she’d tell me that I’d been sleepwalking again. On yet another occasion, I was told that I’d gotten up late in the night to talk to my sister (who was up late talking to her boyfriend on the phone) about a card game called Briscas (a Spanish card game). I told her that I needed my deck so that we could play it. She told me that we did not own that game (she was correct), and to go back to sleep. The next morning, she told me about the episode, and this time I remembered aspects of it (such as her head attached to the phone and her eye-rolling as she told me to go to sleep). Also, in daytime hours, I’d been obsessed with the card game.
But I wondered why I was having those midnight conversations. What drove me to take those midnight walks? WebMD states the genetics plays a huge role in sleepwalking: “Sleepwalking occurs more frequently in identical twins, and is 10 times more likely to occur if a first-degree relative has a history of sleepwalking.” I don’t think it gets any more “first degree relative” than mother and son, which would explain why my son has it. That worked for me and my brother too, as we are also first degree relatives. But my parents weren’t sleepwalkers, which made things interesting. Conveniently, WebMd lists other causes such as stress (rampant in my childhood) as well as nighttime asthma (I had bad nighttime hay fever growing up).
The stress factor is telling, though. I slept-walked and slept-talked while I was in Navy Boot Camp, too. Sometimes I’d “find” myself standing at attention outside of my rack. Several details would alert me to the fact that my timing was off. The first thing that I would notice was that the open bay barracks floor was dark. The second thing that caught my attention was that everyone else was still in their racks. My final alert was the fact that I was still wearing my boot camp T-shirt and my blue silky shorts. Frustrated and exhausted, I would put myself back to sleep. On another occasion, I received a report from a fellow recruit that I’d gotten up in the middle of the night to have words with the woman who slept to the left of me. Apparently, I told her to turn off her “effing” flashlight, as it was Taps (she’d been writing letters to her girlfriend). That surprised me, as I am usually a non-confrontational person. Still, I knew that I’d gone to sleep mad at her that night (and even recalled my standing over her, once someone told me the story) so the story was plausible.
My sleepwalking ended after boot camp and didn’t follow me into my active duty days, thank God. These days, I might say a word or two while sleeping. Sometimes my husband will tell me that I’d woken him up while I’d uttered complete nonsense. He laughs about it, though.
But I wonder how much my son will sleepwalk and sleep talk. What will concern him? What will make him stressed? His dad’s out to sea periods? Keeping an early schedule for homeschool? Concerns about another move?
Ah, well. At least I know what to look out for. I will also talk to him during daylight, conscious hours about what is on his mind and what he worries about. I will also tell him that it is okay to sleepwalk, and that maybe one day his kids might do that, too, but that they’ll be okay because they will have him to talk to about it.