Heather, The Sleepwalker: A Brief History

If you didn’t read HTS’s intro – check it out here.  Heather slept-walked quite a bit, when she was young.  She says that her family didn’t seem very concerned about it.  Her mom would see her walking around, but since Heather always walked back into her room, her mom knew she was safe, so didn’t see any reason to intervene.   

As a teenager, Heather doesn’t recall sleepwalking, I imagine she thought she had outgrown this behavior.  But, the episodes started again when she was in her mid-twenties.  This was a stressful time, as Heather was going through a divorce.  The sleepwalking didn’t stop though, after the stress of this event abated, and she has continued to sleepwalk ever since.

Heather explains that there are two types of sleepwalking: the kind you can remember and the kind you never remember. Heather’s sleep walking used to be of the latter variety. In her mid- twenties she would have no memory of getting up and walking around at night, but she would know she slept-walked because of the clues she found in the morning.  During this time, the obvious hint was generally the fact that she would go to sleep in her pajamas, but wake up with different clothes on.  Interestingly, the garb she arose in was typically a dress she hadn’t worn in years.  It was not always the same dress.  She never awoke in something convenient or comfortable to put on, but always a dress from the far corners of the closet.

From here, the sleep walking worsened, and it hasn’t gone away.  Sometimes, Heather remembers events from her nighttime amblings in the morning, sometimes her memory is sparked by a clue left behind, and sometimes she has no memory of the nocturnal escapades at all.  This makes it difficult for her to give a weekly average regarding how often she sleepwalks.  Her best guess is at least twice a week, sometimes much more.  She hasn’t found a connection between her sleepwalking and her times of either high or low stress.  The only trigger that she is sure of is when she sleeps somewhere other than her own house.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that she sleepwalks more when she’s sleeping at the new place, but more often than not, she will sleep walk upon returning home.

She’s slept in the same bedroom for 14 years, so Awake Heather knows every nook and cranny, while Sleepwalking Heather is quite often confused about where she is.  She’s found that cracking her curtains for a little light sometimes helps her orientation.  As mentioned above, this is exacerbated after overnight trips.  If she goes on a camping trip, when she returns she may sleep walk, thinking that she is still sleeping in a tent, or that she is fishing for crayfish.  If she sleeps at a friend’s cottage, she might sleep walk and picture herself in one of the cottage rooms.  This always means that the door is in a different place than the door in her actual bedroom.  This stresses her out to no end, and she struggles to find the door (where there is none) in the middle of the night.  Did you get a good mental picture of her banging on a dresser to get out of the room? Because that’s what she does. Sounds funny, but she says it is actually pretty scary. She doesn’t remember that her boyfriend is there, and that she could ask him for help, so she just panics, and sometimes cries, to herself.  

Sleepwalking Heather is often very confused about not only where she is, but also who she is with.  She says it feels like she has temporary amnesia.   One of the most disturbing things for her is waking up and not knowing who she is sleeping next to. She has been with her boyfriend for almost 7 years, but she often has to crawl over him and look at his face, because she is completely confused and disoriented. Once she sees his face she feels a huge amount of relief.  Often times after returning from a trip with her friends, she wakes up and thinks that he is just a good girlfriend of hers.  She says she will be laying there feeling incredibly embarrassed, because she thinks she went to bed with her friend, while naked, or, even worse, she thinks she is spooning with her friend. 

She does note, however, that she has never forgotten about her daughter, and says that she will often check up on her during her late night meanderings.  She admits that her daughter doesn’t always appreciate this, especially when she wakes up to Heather standing on the ladder of her loft, just staring at her. Poor girl.

A special thank you to Heather, for sharing her intriguing stories (and for writing most of this post, which I just tweaked, a bit).

This post is a part of Love Links – hosted by FreeFringes.com


27 thoughts on “Heather, The Sleepwalker: A Brief History

  1. Okay, wow! This was so very intriguing – it would make a great plot of a novel. I have sleptwalked occasionally in my childhood but it stopped – so I know how disconcerting it can be to wake up while you’re doing something while you are asleep. It is very off-putting and confusing. I have heard that taking Benadryl stops sleepwalking tendencies, if that helps your friend. Great post.

  2. Verrrrry intriguing. You and Heather should start working on the novel inspired by current events. Still piggybacking on Ado’s comment: yes, maybe a nice Xanax-y sleep aid could help? Why am I offering advice? Shutting up now. Thanks for sharing at lovelinks!

    1. Xanax doesn’t nearly begin to touch these symptoms! Heather and I like to conspire on creative projects…so maybe someday! Though I can see us getting caught up chatting and drinking margaritas and losing interest in the project.

  3. This was so interesting. I do this thing at night, where I raise both of my arms, suspending them above my head (like in ballet) and tickle the inside of my hands. Sometimes it wakes me up, other times it doesn’t. Friends and boyfriends, have often asked, “Do you know that you do this weird thing with your arms at night?” I wonder if it’s stress related. I’m going to see if I can track it.
    Thanks for the read.

  4. I guess I always assume that sleepwalking must be stress related, but it sounds like H. just sleepwalks randomly. It’s fascinating to read about peoples’ sleep states. I can’t imagine the terror she must feel at being that disoriented so often. Thanks for sharing- and thanks, Heather!

  5. Oh, my goodness. My husband is afraid of ghosts, and if I ever woke him up staring at him, or standing over him, he would FREAK OUT.

    This is a really interesting read. Thanks for it, Heather!

  6. Oh boy, Heather. I am so sorry this happens. I can only imagine the terror of it. Not sure if I mentioned this before, but my brother is a bit of a sleepwalker, usually after he’s had a few to drink. As my extended family will all bunk together on various trips (up north, camping, etc.), I’ve seen this meandering in action. Sometimes, he’ll think he’s in the bathroom when he’s not, walking outside to use the latrine or worse. If he EVER wakes up in the middle of the night and we’re sleeping nearby, an alarm instantly goes off somewhere in my soul, because I shoot up in bed and start screaming to my husband to get up and make sure Eric knows our bed is not the toilet!!!!!

  7. That’s truly a scary way to have to live, not to mention that it doesn’t sound like she gets the relaxing sleep that she needs. Thanks to Heather for sharing with you and you for sharing with us…this really is interesting.

  8. This is Heather and thanks for all the great comments! I try to find humor in all of this because any drugs I’ve tried haven’t had long term effects but as Christine has said before it does get scary,especially when I find myself outside in my car or trapped in my bedroom with no means of escape because the door is not where I think it belongs. I also find the ‘temporary amnesia’ intriguing as I don’t remember where I am (the bedroom I’ve been in for 14 years) or who I’m sleeping with (the boyfriend of 7 years) but I never forget to check on my daughter in my nightly escapades. A book…hmmmm, Christine, we should talk! I have the stories and it seems you have the ability to write the damn thing! Would love to hear of any remedies anyone knows of but for now I will try to laugh at my sleepless, ridiculous nights and am thankful that my good friends don’t think I’m as much of a bitch as I should be for all this, haha. God bless coffee and Miller Lite!

  9. Has Heather ever gotten a sleep study done (overnight polysomnogram) or talked with a sleep specialist? In adults, sometimes sleepwalking comes along with other undiagnosed sleep disorders. It may also increase with sleep deprivation, which sounds a little backwards because a lot of people think that it “causes” the sleep deprivation, when in fact, it can usually be vice versa. I’m sure it’s very scary to find yourself in some of those situations completely disoriented.

    1. I have done a sleep study in which they told me since I didn’t actually walk that night they couldn’t tell me anything. I was also hooked up to MANY wires and couldn’t have gotten up if I wanted to! This was at our local hospital where they told me I was the first adult there for sleepwalking ever and didn’t know what to do for me. I need to find a place/doctor that actually specializes in sleep walking!

  10. Wow, that is some crazy stuff. My son has been known to sleep walk from time to time, but nothing like what you’ve described. I can see how that might be very scary and even dangerous for Heather… especially if she’s having a nightmare.

    Heather – Best of luck to you, girl! I hope you can find a way to cure yourself from sleepwalking at night.

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