Woman Sleepwalks Onto Subway Tracks

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!

Sleep Song #2: “Sleepwalking” by Lyle Lovett

I’ve loved Lyle Lovett‘s music for decades. I met Lyle, quite by chance, in 2006 at the Dallas / Ft. Worth Airport International Airport, my layover between the Bonnaroo and the national sleep medicine meetings. He is the consummate Texas gentleman, pure class both onstage and off. It was an absolute pleasure to get to know him.

Lovett1

Among Lyle Lovett’s many great songs is “Sleepwalking,” from his 1998 album, Step Inside This House. As humorous as this song is (see the lyrics below), Lyle sings with substantial clinical accuracy regarding the mysterious phenomenon of sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism.

Sleepwalking represents a series of complex behaviors that tend to arise from arousals from non-REM sleep. Sleepwalkers walk about in an altered state of consciousness, often appearing confused or “glassy-eyed.” Judgment appears impaired. There can be variable degrees of interaction with their surroundings and with other people. Sometimes interactions with others can be inappropriate above and beyond the apparent confusion; agitation or even violence may occur in this setting. In the morning, upon awakening, they are usually partially or completely amnestic of the previous night’s sleepwalking event.

Because sleepwalking and other related parasomnias (the clinical spectrum of unusual movements or behaviors that occur during or out of sleep) tend to occur following abrupt arousals from deep forms of non-REM sleep (called “slow wave sleep“), it stands to reason that people who have lots of deep sleep at night may be particularly prone to sleepwalking. As such, those who are sleep-deprived or who have preceding insomnia (such as the protagonist in Lyle’s song) can be predisoposed to sleepwalking. Other factors that may increase a person’s risk for sleepwalking would include alcohol use; certain medications; previous head injury and other neurologic disorders; travel or sleeping in unfamiliar environments; and stress. In addition to avoiding these predisposing factors, it’s important for sleepwalkers to do what they can to get proper amounts of sleep each night–thus preventing or minimizing sleep deprivation, which leads to increased slow wave sleep–and keep their sleep schedules regular.

Here, now, are the lyrics to this great song. Enjoy!

Sleepwalking
(Willis Alan Ramsey)

Last night you know I couldn’t sleep
I was tossing, turning, and counting sheep
To tell the truth
The next thing I knew
I woke up on the outside
In the middle of the avenue

A policeman spied me in traffic there
In my t-shirt and my underwear
He said, “Son, Son
It sure don’t look good
The way you’ve been calling for your baby
All over the neighborhood”

It seems I was sleepwalking
Again last night
The way I was sweet-talking
It must have caused a terrible fright
Last night, you know when I was sleepwalking

Someone saw me at a doughnut shop
I was sitting and crying on a tabletop
It was not a pretty sight
I was out of control
The way that I was carrying on
About my sweet jelly roll

I said, “Officer please
My baby’s got me down on my knees
Lying in bed
Late at night
Sometimes I just go out of my head
At night
And I go out sleepwalking”

Later on, down at the jail cell
I was hoping things would turn out well
Because I don’t recall
That masquerade ball
And I sure don’t remember nothing y’all
About that blown up rubber doll

It seems I was sleepwalking
Again last night
The way I was sweet talking
It must have caused a terrible fright
Last night, you know when I was sleepwalking

So lately I’ve stopped going anywhere
And I’ve taken to sleeping with a teddy bear
It’s a very full and rich
Imaginary life
And it’s sure enough better than dreaming y’all
About any imaginary wife

No more sleepwalking
No more dreamtalking
No more sleepwalking
No more sleeptalking