Stories like this one from yesterday seem far too common these days. Here is some remarkable surveillance camera video recently released, demonstrating a Boston-area woman ambling slowly forward and right into a subway station pit and onto the subway tracks.
Amazingly, this woman wasn’t seriously injured in the incident, and by report she later told authorities that she had fallen asleep on a nearby bench and that she probably sleepwalked onto the tracks. According to the clock on the video, this incident took place at 8:41 in the morning.
Here’s just a brief word on sleepwalking, a fairly common phenomenon particularly in children, teenagers, and young adults. Sleepwalking is a form of non-REM parasomnia–in other words, an unusual movement or behavior occurring during or immediately out of non-REM sleep (i.e., non-dream sleep). Such events tend to occur more frequently if you are in a position in which you tend to have a lot of deep non-REM sleep (such as if you are sleep-deprived) or if there is something in or around you that causes abrupt arousals from sleep. In the case of this particular woman, I have not been able to find a lot of specific information in the media pertaining to why this incident occurred, but if she had fallen asleep waiting for her train around 8 or 9 in the morning, chances are probably good that she had been sleep-deprived (otherwise she probably wouldn’t have fallen asleep there in the first place), and being in an environment with lots of loud noises (have you ever been in a T-station in or around Boston?), well, this seems like a set-up for a possible sleepwalking event.
Our modern world is crazy. Our lives are fast and furious; we work hard, we study hard, we play hard. But our busy lifestyles don’t make the need for sleep any less important. Most adults need around 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep per night to feel fully rested. Ask yourself how often you are making time for that much sleep at night. My main take-home point for you this afternoon: getting proper amounts of sleep, and regularly, may prevent a whole host of potential problems during the day, ranging from reduced work productivity to fall-asleep car crashes to unusual behaviors such as sleepwalking. And perhaps getting proper amounts of sleep each night may even save your life.
Sleep well, everyone, and stay safe!