Sleepwalking in St. John’s
I have an insatiable desire for knowledge. Some of my questions are along the lines of, to cite the title of a book in my personal library, Why Can’t You Tickle Yourself ? And Other Bodily Curiosities.
I’m mesmerized by questions pertaining to, among other bodily functions, blinking, coughing, dizziness, ears popping, frowning, funny bone, going to sleep in hands and feet, hiccoughing, ice cream headaches, itching, laughing, sneezing, snoring, stomach rumbling, tickling yourself, wrinkling, yawning ... Well, you get the idea. Why do we do the things we do? Enquiring minds want to know. On the other hand, perhaps I simply have way too much time on my hands. Specifically, I often wonder about sleepwalking. I have an intellectual curiosity, but also a vested interest. I need to know why a person walks in his sleep.
Intellectually, I now know what sleepwalking is. Somnambulism is a sleep disorder. I also know that sleepwalkers arise from the slow wave sleep stage in a state of low consciousness and perform activities that are usually performed during a state of full consciousness.
According to a bit of Internet research I did, many sleepwalkers do nothing more serious than sit up in bed and stare glassily into space for a few seconds, while others may walk around for up to half an hour. However, I learned that sleepwalking activities can be as hazardous as cooking, driving, extremely violent gestures, grabbing at hallucinated objects, and homicide. Yes, you read correctly, homicide.
After Sherry and I married, I decided against telling her that I am given to sleepwalking. I shared with her many of my idiosyncracies, but I thought it best for her to learn about this one all on her own. As most of my sleepwalking experiences to date had been fairly mild, I really didn’t feel the need to fill her in on the details. If and when I took a leisurely trek in my sleep, it was for a brief stint, after which I awoke and returned to bed.
At the time, we lived in a two-storey townhouse in St. John’s. One morning, following a sleepwalking incident the night before, I gathered all the evidence as best I could, eventually piecing together what had actually happened. It was not a pretty picture.
Our bedroom was on the second floor. I got out of bed and, in the dark, walked across the room and turned the door handle. Maneuvering the landing, I stumbled downstairs.
The front door leading outside was directly ahead of me. If I took a right turn, I would be in the hallway, leading to the kitchen, living room, and basement door.
Whether or not I stood at the bottom of the stairs and deliberated about which direction to take, I will never know. However, I do know what I did next.
Leaving the last step, I walked the half dozen feet to the front door. I reached out and grasped the doorknob. The sudden stab of cold must have been the awakening factor, because when I roused from my stupour, I was standing still, gripping the handle. At least I had my briefs on.
It took a few moments for me to realize where I was and what I had done. Then, smiling benignly, I wended my way back upstairs and rejoined my wife who was lying in state, sleeping serenely. She had slept through it all, none the wiser.
The next day, I regaled Sherry with my sleepwalking adventure. The practical one in our relationship, she proceeded to put forward a rather unsettling scenario. Now, a smile spread across her face. “ What’s so funny?” I asked. “I can see the newspaper article now, along with your picture. The caption would probably read, ‘Local minister sleepwalking in briefs near Avalon Mall.’”
By the way, there was one other sleepwalking incident which Sherry did not sleep through. I rose up in bed, turned toward the headboard, and bowed down in humble obeisance. “Praying to the headboard, are you?” she asked with a chuckle before she turned over and went back to sleep. But that’s a story for another day.
To my credit, I’ve never committed homicide in my sleep … as far as I know.