The Unusual Things People Do While Sleepwalking
Not very many people sleepwalk, but the small number of people who do manage to accomplish a lot of weird stuff while unconscious. Whether it’s talking to a pillow, making a sandwich, or operating a vehicle, sleepwalkers behave the same way non-sleepwalkers do. They just engage in certain behaviors while they’re asleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleepwalking occurs when your brain gets caught between two different stages of sleep. This is why many sleepwalkers engage in “awake” behaviors while asleep. Things you’d normally do during the day seem way weirder in the middle of the night, though. Here are some of the strangest things people have done while sleepwalking.
1. Holding full conversations
Many sleepwalkers also talk — sometimes at full volume, in what seems like coherent sentences — during episodes of parasomnia. Rather than acting out a dream, you’re much more likely to mumble nonsensically during deep sleep (when you’re not actually dreaming). You might even respond to or send texts while sleeping, but those might not make much sense, either.
Many cases of sleep talking are actually genetic. Sleep.org also says gender, age, and whether you’re sleep deprived can also increase your chances of talking while sleeping. Thankfully, it’s not likely anyone in your proximity will be able to understand your gibberish. So no need to worry about accidentally revealing any deep, dark secrets while you snooze.
2. Getting ready for work
Has anything in your life become so deeply programmed into your brain that you swear you could do it in your sleep? You actually might be able to. Stanford Health Care says people tend to engage in routine behaviors while sleepwalking, even though they’re completely unaware of it. Because the brain is on the edge of deep sleep at this point, a person might simply get up, take a shower, get dressed, and brush their teeth as if getting ready to leave for work.
If you ever wake up in the morning fully dressed, hair and makeup done, wearing your best heels, this could be why. If it weren’t for the drowsiness that usually follows a night of sleepwalking, you might have actually saved yourself some time after your alarm went off.
3. Cooking, eating, or both
If cooking is something you do on a regular basis, you may wake up in the morning to an unusually messy kitchen — if you’re prone to sleepwalking, that is. Eating while sleepwalking is also common, whether you proceed to finish a full meal you’ve cooked or raid your pantry unknowingly.
According to the American Sleep Association, you’re at a higher risk of sleep-eating if you have sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Sleep-eating isn’t always dangerous — unless you unintentionally eat or drink something you aren’t supposed to. Most of the time, it simply results in unwanted weight gain — and the really annoying task of having to clean your kitchen every morning.
Here’s another normal-while-awake behavior to add to the list — sex. Everyday Health says sleepwalkers have been known to engage in sexual activities while asleep and completely unaware. These behaviors can occur whether you share a bed with a partner or not.
Sometimes, frequently engaging in sexual behaviors while asleep is a completely separate issue called sexsomnia. Healthline says stress, anxiety, fatigue, sleep deprivation, and drug use can all contribute to this condition. Like sleepwalking and other sleep disorders, people tend not to remember behaving this way if prompted to discuss it later.
In many instances, sleepwalking can be harmless. If left alone, though, a sleepwalker can put themselves, and others, in danger — even though they aren’t doing so intentionally. According to Mayo Clinic, sleepwalking becomes dangerous when risky behavior ensues. Distracted driving is risky enough, so driving while asleep definitely should not happen. But it does.
For some people, driving is simply a part of their daily routine. They sleep drive with a destination in mind, and might actually manage to make it there without a problem. However, many sleepwalkers go back to sleep eventually, without waking up. If this were to happen while you were driving, it probably wouldn’t end well.
6. Jumping out of windows
If a sleepwalker doesn’t make it to their car, they might still try to leave their house — though not always through the front door. Some people who sleepwalk also suffer from sleep terrors, which is what happened when comedian Mike Birbiglia jumped from the window of his hotel room. He wasn’t trying to injure himself — he just wanted to get away from a threat present only in his nightmare.
Injuries sustained while sleepwalking vary depending on the activity. But it’s not uncommon for people to fall down stairs, or burn themselves while cooking. Unknowingly jumping out of a window, though less common, could have serious consequences.
7. Committing a crime
It’s rare for a sleepwalker to become violent or do something illegal. Most of the time, people just sit up, babble, and wander around the house for a bit. But every once in awhile, someone on trial for a crime blames their actions on sleepwalking — and it’s sometimes a solid defense.
There have been several court cases in which the jury found someone not guilty of first-degree murder due to temporary insanity while sleepwalking. Evidence of abnormal brain waves during REM and deep sleep has convinced past juries that crimes committed in this state weren’t intentional, and shouldn’t be punished. This defense doesn’t always work, but it does speak to the many strange things we might be capable of doing when we’re completely unaware we’re not still safe and sound in bed.