My first time sleepwalking was at the age of 7. It was my first sleepover and I walked out of my friend’s room and down the dark hallway to her parent’s bedroom. I opened the door, shimmied up onto the bed, and crawled between her parents where I made myself comfortable. I have a vague memory of her dad awkwardly walking me back to his daughter’s room and telling me to “stay” like a little lost puppy or something. Since then, I have spent hundreds of nights wandering around my house, friends houses, walk in closets, and hotel rooms in my sleep.
Today, I took a step towards a possible solution to my exhausting sleepwalking habits. I made an appointment to see a sleep specialist! It’s time. Actually, it was time a long time ago. But before, my sleepwalking wasn’t a horrible disruption in my life, I still found it amusing enough to brush off. And I still do find it amusing and fascinating, but I’m exhausted.
Today I just broke down and cried because I was so tired. I know that crying from exhaustion is not terribly uncommon (those with children, college students, people with multiple jobs), but I have no reason to be this tired. If I was still working two jobs and waking up at 5am to go to the gym and doing college classes, then yes I’d understand. But I do nothing. I can’t do anything because I can barely get dressed in the morning due to the exhaustion from running around all night long. It’s frustrating because I am happy, I’m not depressed, I love my life, I truly enjoy my job and look forward to work. Things are great, except I wake up sometimes 5 times a night screaming because a giant spider, a rabid bat, or an angry mongoose is trying to kill me.
I cried again when I got onto the sleep doctor’s website and read about the sleep disorders they are looking to rule out during a sleep study. I know that the things I deal with are not unique to me, thousands upon thousands of people deal with them, but it can be hard to remember that. When I’m laying awake and alone at 3am, my heart feeling like it is going to explode out of my chest because of another night terror, it feels really lonely. It feels like there is something wrong with me, and nobody really understands. After all, I’ve never met anybody else who has these types of vivid dreams and sleepwalking/talking episodes an average of 5 nights per week.
To be honest, the sleep disorder that sounds most similar to my episodes is narcolepsy. Did you know that not everyone with narcolepsy falls asleep at random times during the day as cartoons and movies so often depict? I had no idea. The symptom that had me jaw dropping was the description of hypnagogic hallucinations. I had never heard of them before, but they are without a doubt 100% what I experience during one of my more violent episodes.
According to the website Wise Geek:
Visual, auditory, tactile, and kinetic sensations can all be experienced during hypnagogic hallucinations, and everyone experiences slightly different forms. Some people, for example, may feel like they are falling, and jerk themselves awake to avoid hitting the ground. Others may hear voices as they are trying to drift off to sleep, or experience a vivid sensation that someone or something is in the room (read IT EFFING SUCKS. REMEMBER MY DEMONS OR SLEEPWALKING POST?! IT’S ALL MAKING SENSE NOW!). Sensory experiences such as feeling like one is submerged in a pool of water are also not uncommon.
In some cases, hypnagogic hallucinations can be frightening for the people who experience them. They may include vivid and frightening images, including images which are out of scale, which can make the hallucinations seem even more unsettling; people may see giant spiders on the walls (OMG YES! YES!!!!), for example, or feel like they have shrunk down to a tiny size in the bed. The vivid experiences may also be brought to mind over the course of the day, causing inexplicable images or sensations to filter through someone’s consciousness at an unexpected moment.
That description is my life between 1 and 7 nights per week. Sounds fun, right? You can pretty safely assume that in addition to feeling thrilled because there may be an end in sight to my sleepwalking, my anxiety is a little off the charts with thoughts like “what if I have schizophrenia?” or “do I have multiple personality disorder and this is the early stages?!” I know I’m being dramatic and overly anxious (shocking), I just hate the unknown.
I’m not trying to self diagnose and I’m definitely not suggesting that I have narcolepsy, but it feels reassuring to know that what I’m dealing with is not uncommon no matter what it is. Hopefully in a few weeks we will have some answers and my husband and I can sleep through the night. I honestly can’t remember the last time I did. And I’m so, so tired.
7 thoughts on “Who Needs LSD To Hallucinate?”
This sounds really hopeful! The fact that you found a diagnosis that fits you so closely, says a lot, although I can understand the “I hate the unknowns” feeling you must be having. At least in a few weeks, you will have some answers, I hope you can hang in there until then!
That’s exactly how I feel too! I always classified my “episodes” as night terrors but the hypnagogic hallucinations are EXACTLY what they are after reading the description. So interesting!
Thanks so much for your comment & encouragement!
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I can’t imagine. Good luck with your appointment. I hope you get some answers. Do you think writing about it led you to schedule an appointment?
Thank you so much! You know, it may have helped a little bit. We have been joking about doing a sleep study for years but have never talked about it seriously. I was at work two days ago and a nurse I work with was actually the one who strongly encouraged me to call my doctor to set one up.
I’m constantly surrounded by people who know about my night terrors and sleepwalking so it’s not unusual to any of us, so I don’t really think much of it. I think it took someone on the outside saying “it doesn’t have to be like this, there may be something you need to get looked at by a doctor. This isn’t right.” that kind of hit me. Then when I read about the sleep disorders on the website, it confirmed it for me! I guess I’ve just gotten so used to them that I figured this is how my life/nights are going to be. Really looking forward to getting it looked into!
I know what you mean about thinking it’s not that weird because you’ve always lived with it. But, like your coworker said, maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. It seems the whole process of the study will be interesting. I’m sure you’ll document it here. Hint, hint.
Oh you know it! Also hoping to post some super sexy photos of me hooked up to 10,000 wires and monitors during the actual sleep study. We will see!