I was a senior in high school and I had volunteered to be a camp counselor for 5th Grade Camp Pioneer. One night I was startled out of my slumber. One of my kids was standing over my bed. Afraid he was going to pee on me, I quickly shot up to my feet. The kid was asleep, yet there he was! I thought...if I wake him up, will he suddenly have a stroke or go into a coma? I had heard that waking someone in the middle of sleepwalking episode could be fatal. Luckily, I was able to guide him back to his bed where he stayed all night.
But people still wonder: will waking a sleepwalker make them go into shock?
"You can startle sleepwalkers, and they can be very disoriented when you wake them up and they can have violent, or confused reactions, but I have not heard of a documented case of someone dying from being woken up," reports Michael Salemi, manager of the California Center for Sleep Disorders.
Obviously, quickly guiding them back to bed is the fastest and easiest thing to do. But sometimes sleepwalkers do very complicated tasks like driving a car or unlocking doors. In those cases, it's best to wake them up before they hurt themselves or others.
The danger really is to the person doing the waking up. A sleepwalker may become disoriented or panicked if they're woken up, and they might flail their arms about or become violent. "If you wake a sleepwalker abruptly, you can startle him and may wind up with a black eye," says Gary Zammit, Ph.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Institute at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.
It's amazing some of the stuff that some people will do while sleepwalking. Here are just a few examples:
A woman in Australia was reported to leave her home and have sex with strangers...all while asleep. Her boyfriend once even found her in the act outside the house. They worked with a medical research facility in Sydney, and this case was confirmed a true case of sleepwalking.
Kenneth Parks drove 14 miles, murdered his mother-in-law and nearly killed his father-in-law while experiencing a sleepwalking epis0de. He had no motive in this case, and dearly loved his mother-in-law especially. Parks drove himself to a police station after waking up and finding blood all over himself. In 1988, a jury found him not guilty of murder since Parks was totally asleep during the act of killing.
Recently, there have been bizarre stories of people eating while asleep. Although this has been linked to the use of Ambien, sleep-eating is not a new phenomenon. The disorder is known as sleep-related eating disorder (SRED) and combines both sleeping and eating disorders. It's a horrible problem for the nearly 3 million Americans that suffer from this. Shelly Egemo of Iowa suffered from SRED almost all of her life. It got to the point where her husband nicknamed her side of the bed "Shelly's Snack Shop."
At night, she'd go to the kitchen and bring back all kinds of goodies including cookies, cakes, and chips. Shelly said, "In the morning, there would be frosting in my hair and M&M's stuck to my husband's back."
Finally, one guy writing on a message board on Digg admitted his sleep walking included spontaneous urination. He would get up, walk around, believe he was in the bathroom, and drop his pants and pee. His parents would find wet spots all around the house the next morning, and they were perplexed. They solved the mystery during one close-call. "I walked into my parents room one night and stood right next to my mom and pulled down my pants. Luckily for her she is a light sleeper and she woke up before I gave her a golden shower."
Maybe it was Mother's Day?