Thursday, January 6, 2011


Our children went back to school on Tuesday. They were not that keen on the holidays ending, like any normal children, but certainly not anxious about it.

Since stopping wearing night time nappies 4 months ago, our 6 y-o has, like clockwork, got herself up, usually around 10.30 or 11, to go to the loo. We don't even help her, she is so used to it & literally 'does it in her sleep'. Even when in Bosnia, in a ski chalet, with a very steep narrow attic staircase & no lights on, she would get herself up, negotiate her way successfully down the stairs, through the living room & into the bathroom & then retrace her steps, quite happily. In the dark. She never remembers doing any of this.

On Monday night this week, I heard the familiar creak of her door opening, a pause of roughly 'visit to the bathroom' length & then she came into the kitchen, rubbing her eyes. I talked to her, telling her what a clever girl she was & suggesting we 'go back to bed now'? She nodded, & I led her back to bed, tucked her in & kissed her, closing the door as I left. Less than a minute later she was back in the kitchen beside me saying “I can't do it. I just can't do it.” I was a bit confused until Mr Ngo suggested maybe she hadn't actually 'been' to the loo. When asked if she needed to go she nodded, so we walked out of the kitchen & she went ahead of me straight of me &.....into the spare-room.

No, it's this way.” I said. She sat on the loo, eyes closed, feet dangling. Once finished, again I led her out & pushed open the bedroom door, turning to speak to her, only to discover she was no where to be seen. I called “Where are you?”

“Here.” she said. She was in the sitting room. “What are you doing in there?” I asked. She didn't know. Of course. Next morning she had no recollection of this whatsoever. She is also convinced we make up these stories for our breakfast amusement. She is very sensitive to being 'laughed at'.

Later that same night, around midnight, I saw the children's bedroom light on, so I went in & found our 10 y-o sitting on the floor in nothing but his underpants rummaging through his drawer looking for socks.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Getting dressed,” he replied “But I don't know what to wear.”

“How about pyjamas?” I suggested. He looked at me as if I was mad, so I explained it was still night time & he still had quite a few hours ahead of him. He checked his watch, gave a little smile & put his pyjamas back on.

They say sleepwalking is not indicative of any psychological disturbance,but you do wonder what's going on in their little minds.

It normally occurs between 11 & 1 in the 1st third of the night, only usually occurs once a night & is hereditary. It is also most common in children aged 4-8 & also commoner amongst bed wetters. My daughter isn't a bed wetter, since abandoning nappies. If she didn't sleepwalk, she would be though...

It is also supposed to be hereditary. I know my mum used to tell me I would engage her in conversation at night or sit bolt upright in bed when she came in to tuck me in saying “I am awake you know” (Strange child that I was.) It also doesn't have to involve actual walking but more often repeated or routine behaviours.

The only 'sleepwalking' I've known my husband to do once in 20 years was when he got up for his customary visit to the bathroom, but mistook the landing for the bathroom. Fortunately, having been disturbed, I often get up too, & on this occasion followed my husband out onto the landing. Let's just say spotting the characteristic stance, I got there in the nick of time & steered him into the bathroom.

Of course he is convinced I made up the entire incident for a joke. Like father, like daughter.

A former colleague of mine had a husband who had a severe sleepwalking problem, he had got out of the house, tried to drive the car on several occasions, & , more helpfully, when they were moving house, was taking pictures off the walls & packing boxes in his sleep. Seriously though, that would make me lose sleep. What a worry.

It has always been something of a mystery & wasn't even seriously investigated until the 20th century. It seems the reality is much more mundane than all the literary & musical allusions make it out to be. And indeed there are some interesting cases of people who have committed murders whilst sleepwalking & been acquitted. Legally it's called temporary insanity.

Do you have any experience of sleep walking?


Expat mum said...

I sleep walk a lot - and I wake up half way through whatever I'm doing (usually looking out the bedroom window) and try to pretend to the Ball & Chain that I really meant to be there!
The only time it's been dangerous was when I fell down a flight of stairs. I didn't really fall - rather bumped my bum all the way down. It didn't half hurt the next morning though!
Can't really say what causes it and no one else in my family seems to do it.

nappy valley girl said...

I have never done it but my husband used to do it all the time when he was younger. The funniest time was at University (where we met) when he got up in the middle of the night, went to the bathroom and shaved exactly half of his face. He also used to leap out of bed occasionally and run across the room. Strangely, he has not done this for years - I wonder if it was an age thing.

I am glad your 6 yo is still not bedwetting. We are trying this bedwetting alarm thing with the 5 year old to get him out of nappies at night. The alarm wakes him up when he's wet and eventually it's supposed to train them to go themselves. I think he is doing this in the mornings now but it's the late night/2am wees that he really won't wake up for. It's hard because it disturbs all our sleep, but I don't want him to be in nappies for years!

Iota said...

A friend at university asked me to keep a spare key to her room. She was a sleepwalker, and was worried she'd lock herself out. She did walk a few times, but woke up with her hand on the door latch. The fear of leaving her room was obviously enough to trigger a wake-up response.

We once heard my daughter get up and run onto the landing. We found her sitting on the chair in front of the computer, with her nightie hitched up around her waist. We steered her to the bathroom. I found it interesting that she hadn't emptied her bladder on the desk chair - something stopped her, even though she was really more asleep than awake. She can sit up and talk to us in her sleep, but it's quite disturbing, as her pupils are huge. She looks a bit crazed.

Mwa said...

My son sleepwalks. I find it very disturbing. Both are children also get night terrors sometimes, which is very scary because I just can't seem to console them or wake them up. My son seems to be getting over that now, at six years old, but he does walk about sometimes when he's asleep and it's a worry. I think I did the same when I was his age.