The following is a visitor-submitted question or story. For more, you can submit your own sleep story here, or browse the collection of experiences and questions other visitors have shared here.

Fully Awake To Somnambulism In Seconds?

by Mark
(California, USA)

Is it possible to enter a somnambulistic state directly from a fully awakened state, in a time of only several seconds?


The subject, a 14-year-old male in excellent physical condition, has exhibited the following behavior over the past eight months. In intervals ranging from once every few weeks to a couple of times a week, he awakens, reaches full alertness, is walking around and communicating normally, and then (about 15 minutes after awakening), with no warning, enters a state of impaired consciousness. During the impairment, he is ambulatory, and can give simple (up to a few words) answers to questions, but cannot follow simple instructions without aid. He appears confused as to his surroundings and circumstances, and about half the time, his comments indicate that he is experiencing visual hallucinations.

With very specific guidance, he can perform complex functions, such as eating. He has taken a shower and relieved himself on some such mornings but, because he hasn't been closely observed in the bathroom, it is unknown whether he did so before or after entering this state.
Also, most of the incidents include an occasional involuntary movement, such as nodding of the head or shaking of one hand (say, a few times during the entire 20 minute incident).

He emerges from the state about 15-25 minutes after entry, in a gradual progression that makes it difficult to identify exactly when the incident has finished. After emerging, he has no memory of it, and his behavior for the rest of the day is perfectly normal, as it is during the entire day on days (most of them) when he has no such incident.

1. Is such behavior consistent with any known form of parasomnia?

2. Could such behavior be caused or exacerbated by any sleep disorder?

3. What path would you recommend for further investigation?

TIA,

Mark
Hey Mark,

Thanks for the detailed report. What you describe is different than any condition I have ever heard of, but my experience is very limited in that domain and a practicing sleep physician may have some more insights for you. I'll do my best to pass your words on to the teachers and doctors in the Stanford Sleep and Dreams community and let you know if anything comes of it.

The only insights that I would think to make given what you describe are twofold:

One, the most notable condition that parallels this experience of going straight from a fully awake state to a sleep-related state is narcolepsy, where an individual can be normally going throughout the day before being struck by an attack of REM sleep known as cataplexy. While this doesn't sound like what you describe exactly, I thought the parallel worth mentioning. You can learn more about narcolepsy from our site here.


Secondly, the only other thing that I'd think to mention just for general information purposes in case it helps you, is that sleepwalking episodes are more likely to occur early in the night, especially in the first third of sleep when NREM sleep stages are the longest. That said though, typically one progresses at least to NREM stages 3 and 4, when sleep is the deepest, before an episode occurs, which takes several minutes (it is thought that the sleepwalking itself is associated with a lightening of sleep from those deep stages). I hope to have more information on the journey through NREM and REM sleep on this site shortly, but in the meantime if you would like to read more about sleepwalking, you can see our main article on the subject here.

While those points don't directly address the scenario you have described, I thought them worth mentioning in case you didn't already know them and they lead to anything valuable for you.

What you say about the boy having no memory for the episodes upon emerging from them is very interesting and definitely presents a flag that would seem to point towards the involvement of sleep mechanisms in some way. Have you consulted any sleep physicians in person about this? If not, that would surely be a worthwhile thing to do I think.

I'll let you know on this page if I find out anything more on this. Best wishes on your quest for information, and do please update us if you find anything out.

Warmly,
Kevin

Comments for Fully Awake To Somnambulism In Seconds?

Click here to add your own comments

Aug 16, 2010
Narcolepsy Symptoms
by: Mark

Kevin,

Thanks for your comments. In response,

1. We have a PSG scheduled for next week at an AASM-accredited site.

2. Of the four narcolepsy symptoms listed on your site, only the last, sleep-related hallucinations (and those would have to be hypnopompic) would seem to be a possibility. It's definitely not cataplexy or sleep paralysis, and I don't think EDS is likely, although I'm less certain on that score.

Take care,

Mark

Aug 16, 2010
Best Wishes
by: Kevin

Ah, good to hear. Best wishes with the PSG. I'd be interested to know what you're able to find out.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Sleepwalking Stories.




Enjoy this page? Please help us pay it forward to others who would find it valuable by Liking, Sharing, Tweeting, Stumbling, and/or Voting below.

About This Site

Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.

In fact, we challenge you to do so! What do you say, are you up for the challenge?


A Note On Visitor-Submitted Questions:

Publishing sleep stories and questions from our visitors is meant to create a forum for open and proactive dialogue about an extremely important portion of our lives (one that occupies 1/3 of it and affects the other 2/3) that isn't talked about enough. It is not meant to substitute a trip to the doctor or the advice of a specialist. It's good to talk; it is not good to avoid consulting someone who's profession it is to help you with this kind of stuff.

If you are in any way concerned about your sleep health, don't wait for an answer on here, and don't necessarily rely on them. See a sleep specialist in your area as soon as possible.

More Questions:

Ask | Answer

The Stanford Sleep Book

Stanford Sleep Book Picture

Dr. Dement's pioneering textbook has been the core text for Sleep and Dreams since 1980, but it has just recently been made available to the wider public for the first time.

In it you'll find a more detailed account of the most important things you need to know about sleep, alertness, dreams, and sleep disorders. Studies, statistics, plus plenty of Dr. Dement's classic anecdotes painting the history of sleep medicine.

Preface | Intro | Contents | Get A Copy

More Sleep Resources

The Zeo

A revolution in personal sleep tracking, the Zeo is a wireless headband that transmits your brainwaves in realtime to a dock (pictured here) or your smartphone. The result? You can wake up and see exactly what stages of sleep you were in during the night! Unprecedented personalized sleep knowledge.

Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide

Sleep Paralysis Treatment Book

Ever woken up paralyzed? A surprising number of us have, believe it or not. But few know the actual causes of this phenomenon, and fewer still how to exert control over it. Dream researcher and sleep paralysis expert Ryan Hurd shares breakthrough insights into how to do just that.

Important Disclaimer

Please Note:

The information found on this page and throughout this site is intended for general information purposes only. While it may prove useful and empowering, it is NOT intended as a substitute for the expertise and judgments of healthcare practitioners.

For more info, see our
Terms of Use.