Sleepwalking is a bizarre sleep disorder, where sufferers can find themselves performing daily routines in their sleep - like doing housework, raiding the fridge, making phone calls, and in extreme cases leaving the house altogether.
Sleepwalkers have no memory of their somnambulism so the condition can go unnoticed for some time. Common causes of sleepwalking include:
It's actually a myth that sufferers are acting out the movements of a dream. Most cases occur in NREM sleep - a deep sleep where dreams are fleeting and few. This is also why it's very unlikely that you could actually sleepwalk while lucid dreaming (and even if you did, you would probably realize and wake up very quickly).
"After spending some money in his sleep, Hermon the Miser was so infuriated that he hanged himself" ~ Gaius Lucilius
Sleep talking is another parasomnia where people talk in their sleep. It happens during the transition of one NREM cycle to another, when you become partially awake. It can also happen during REM sleep, in which case you literally verbalize your dream speech!
Sleep talking is linked to several other sleep disorders:
Sleep talking is very common in young children, but the majority grow out of it. Only 5% of adults appear to sleep talk on a regular basis.
Dion McGregor became a celebrity in the 1960s when his roommate began recording his nightly sleep talking monologues. Apparently they were hilariously detailed and explained what was happening in his dreams - including a hot air balloon trip to the moon!
Sleepwalking can be quite disturbing if you don't know what you're dealing with. So here are a few tips to employ next time a loved one goes walkabout at night.
First, trying gently guiding the person back to bed.
They may want to complete their sleepwalking task first (eg, they may be dusting if they think the house is dirty). In this case, help them out, then guide them back to bed. Don't be embarrassed - they won't remember any of it!
If you're not sure what their goal is, you can just ask them. They may be slow to respond or may not respond at all - just keep your questions simple.
Don't be surprised if they do strange things, like urinating into a pot plant or eating invisible food. They are acting out automatic responses from waking life and are not fully aware of their surroundings nor what they are doing.
It's shocking - but it's true. Confirmed killers have walked free from court because they used the sleepwalking murder defense. About 68 sleepwalking murder cases have occurred to date, and have led to new laws and definitions of murder.
The courts now recognize that you can't be held responsible for acts which you can't willfully control. This includes acts of automatism - including spasms, reflex actions, convulsions, acts under concussion... and walking in your sleep.
Here are two of the most high profile sleepwalking murder cases.
In 1987, Kenneth Parks was 23 years old, married and with a 5-month-old daughter. He had a close relationship to his mother-in-law, who called him "her gentle giant."
The summer before, he developed a gambling problem and fell into deep financial problems. To cover his losses, he took funds from his family's savings and then began to embezzle money at work. Eventually, his actions were discovered and he was fired. He started going to Gamblers Anonymous, and planned to tell his in-laws about his problems on the following Sunday.
In the early hours of May 23rd, Kenneth Parks got up, drove 23km to his in-laws' home, and broke in. He assaulted his father-in-law and battered his mother-in-law to death with a tyre iron. Then he drove to the police station, covered in blood, and said "I think I have killed some people... my hands."
Kenneth Parks' only defense was that he was asleep during the entire incident and was not aware of what he was doing. Nobody believed it - even sleep specialists were extremely skeptical.
However, after careful investigation, the specialists could find no other explanation. Parks' EEG readings were highly irregular even for a parasomniac. There was no motive, and he was amazingly consistent in his story for more than seven interviews.
The timing of the events also fit perfectly. And since there was no way to fake his own EEG results, Kenneth Parks was acquitted of the murder of his mother-in-law and assault on his father-in-law.
In 1997, Scott Falater brutally murdered his wife of 20 years. Falater stabbed his wife 44 times with a hunting knife and pushed her in the family swimming pool. Witnesses saw him hold her head underwater.
After killing his wife, Falater hid his clothes in the wheel well of his car, changed into his pajamas and bandaged his bleeding hand. He also hid the murder weapon in a tupperware container, and put it in a trash bag with his boots and socks. Then he went back to bed.
Some experts said the most likely cause of the crime was a sleep disorder. But the prosecution argued that Falater's actions were too complex to have been carried out while sleepwalking. After all, he had the foresight to hide all the incriminating evidence and tend to his wounds.
After a lengthy trial, the jury returned its verdict: guilty of premeditated murder. Falater was sentenced to life without parole.
The idea of sleepwalking murder is chilling for two reasons. In the first instance, we have the unconscious mind making decisions without rational waking logic. While the body acts with automated responses, the unconscious guides its overall behavior as if there is no consequence - as if in a dream world.
Secondly, what if sleepwalking is used as a murder defense by malicious killers and they get away with it? How can a jury truly understand what happened in a person's brain retrospectively - whether the crime was a true act of automatism?
Fortunately, sleepwalking murder is a rare occurrence. And the act of sleepwalking itself has absolutely nothing to do with lucid dreaming.
You can sleep soundly tonight :)
What do blind people dream about? Can they "see" in their dreams? Take a look at scientific studies into the dreams of the blind, colorblind, and black-and-white dreamers. In 1999, dream researchers at the University of Hartford analyzed 372 dreams of 15 blind people. They found that both the congenitally blind and those who went blind before five years old did not have any visual dreams at all. That's because our dreams are made up of real world experiences and our innermost thoughts, anxieties and desires. So for someone who has never perceived images or light (or can't remember any) their dreams simply can't manifest visually.
Not long ago, scientists at Frankfurt University discovered how to produce lucid dreams with electronic stimulation. It was a world first. And - astonishingly - it worked in non-lucid dreamers 77% of the time. Now you can buy the same technology for yourself. The foc.us V2 - which delivers the proven optimum 40 Hz transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) - was originally developed to increase working memory in video gamers and improve sleep.
As technology continues to move us towards more immersive dreamlike experiences, one can only wonder what digital wonders lay just beyond the horizon of tomorrow. We may also question just how the future of virtual reality will impact the study and practice of lucid dreaming. Are we, perhaps, the last generation to whom lucid dreaming will maintain an appeal?
Jeremiah Morelli is a whimsical fantasy artist and visual storyteller. He places conceptual fairytale creatures in vivid dreamscapes to capture the imagination. He's also a school teacher, and amazingly finds the time and motivation to create this huge gallery of artwork. Such light and dark fairytale paintings make beautiful places to visit in your lucid dreams.
Inspired and named for the notion of Flatland, artist and photographer Aydin Buyuktas has created a series of works where "a space of surprises creates a space that creates surprises." Based on photos of Istanbul, Buyuktas explains: "We live in places that most of the times don't draw our attention, places that transform our memories, places that the artist gives another dimension; where the perceptions that generally crosses our minds will be demolished and new ones will arise. These works aim to leave the viewer alone with a surprising visuality, ironic as well as a multidimensional romantic point of view."
Experts agree that everyone is capable of having lucid dreams. Dreaming itself is a normal function of the mind. We all dream every night, even if we don't remember. And we all achieve conscious awareness while awake every single day. So what does it mean to combine these states? Why, the amazing ability to have conscious - or lucid - dreams. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why do I keep hearing from people who say they can't achieve their first lucid dream?