And You All Thought I Was Crazy Before...

One of my favorite bloggers is Temerity-Jane. I love her stuff! If you don’t read her, go now. I’ll wait.  TJ’s blog is one of the main reasons I started this blog—I’d been tossing the idea around for a while and a post of hers just pushed me over the edge. So if you like my blog (which I still can’t believe real people read me, let alone that they might like me, but that’s neither here nor there), you have TJ to thank.

Anyway, TJ posted today about sleep paralysis. Now, I’d heard of this before in a vague kind of way (my father is a mental health professional, so I know quite a few things about human psychology in a vague sort of way). But when she explained her experiences, I realized I have a similar (and by “similar” I mean “exact opposite”) problem.

For those of you too lazy to click through to her post (no judgment, I’ve had my fair share of lazy days… yesterday, in fact, when I didn’t post), I’ll give a brief synopsis. Although, really, click through. Because it’s a crazy experience. And she’s hilarious. Bonus: she has a really cute baby. Alright, still too lazy? I’ll forgive you, just this once.

So, sleep paralysis is where your mind wakes up, but your body is still asleep and locked in that self-protection mode of paralysis (so you don’t try to run away from bad guys in your sleep and end up eating drywall in reality…). So you just lay there in bed, unable to move or speak, but hearing everything in the room and panicking, because OH MY GOD I MIGHT BE DYING AND I CANNOT TELL ANYONE. So… Really scary stuff. And sometimes, it comes with hallucinations, like the one TJ had about a mouse. No, I will not recap that story. It’s TJ’s story to tell and she’s mighty good at it so stop being so lazy and click through already. Geez!

When I went to comment on her post to tell her about my “similar” problem, I realized that my response was so long and detailed that it could be a post all on its own. And now looking at my intro, I’m realizing I don’t even need that story to get a substantial sized post going. But then again, this hasn’t been all that interesting so far, because, c’mon. I’m recapping a more brilliant blogger. Just go read her stuff and cut out the middle man, right? Except that I actually DO have a story to tell. But still go read her stuff. Because yes.

[I would apologize for being all ADHD Blogger in this post, but I’m pretty sure this format is no different from most of my other posts, so… I guess I’m going to call this erratic parenthetical blurting my “voice” and be done with it…]

Anyway, I have this sleep issue that started when I was about 10 or 11, I think (I don’t know. Mom, you read the blog… Comment below and correct me, okay?) Anyway, my problem is “exactly opposite” in that, instead of brain awake/body asleep, I do body awake/brain asleep. Or at least brain half-asleep. This situation usually occurs when I have a high fever or I’m incredibly sleep deprived, but it can happen at random, as well. I’ve rarely woken up for the day like this (although I have at least once), so it usually happens in the middle of the night.

You see, I wake up, but it’s different than actually waking up. I can move. I can talk. I can get out of bed and move around the house. And I am aware of the world around me. Sounds like how most people wake up every day, right? Except it isn’t. Because I’m also still dreaming.

I can see the kitchen, but I can also see things that aren’t there, usually shadowy ghost-like scary things that hover on the fringes of my vision. I can hear my father talking, but his words come out so fast it’s like his mouth is a rapid-fire machine-gun, registering louder than normal. Or his words are a garbled hoarse whisper of nonsense. I can move, but my movements are slow and take a lot of effort, because my body is so heavy and also floaty at the same time. The world around me feels like it’s set on fast forward. When I was little, my dad tried to rub my back to calm me down, but instead of the slow soothing circles he was actually making on my back, it felt like he was trying to build up enough friction to start a fire (needless to say, this didn’t calm me down much and he didn’t try that again). 

As if all of this wasn’t enough, I hallucinate voices, too. It’s almost always a woman screaming “Yes!” all triumphantly over and over again. And a man yelling “No!” in response. And the sound of a roulette ball simultaneously spinning and ticking into the spaces. It’s probably something I heard on a movie once and for some reason, my mind dredges it up during these moments. During these periods of time, I know logically that I’m just experiencing a half dream and that these things aren’t real, but I still usually panic. Maybe the panic feeling is also part of the hallucination… I’m not sure.

And reading this over, I sound completely insane. Which I guess I am a little, in the moments when this is happening. Like I said, it’s usually fever induced, almost always in the middle of the night, and always when my brain is caught in that netherworld between asleep and awake. And it’s terrifying. My eyes always feel like they are so wide open that I will never shut them again. Over the years, I’ve learned to look for the signs early (especially if I’m sick), so I can stay calm and fix it. It seems that I can either try to “reset” my brain by sleeping again and re-waking up normally (but this is only possible if I’m not panicking) or I can shock my system enough to wake up all the way—taking a shower or drinking something extra cold is usually enough. But it leaves me feeling weird for the rest of the day.

So, I guess this falls somewhere between sleep paralysis and sleep walking? Maybe? I’m not sure. I’ve always wondered what it’s all about, but TJ’s post made me feel a little less crazy. But none of her commenters reported anything quite like my issue, so I thought I’d share it here. Because I’ll either freak you out (which is kind of fun) or I’ll find someone else like me. Any takers? Bueller?


  1. It sounds like you may have a type of night terrors. I have a friend who attacked her boyfriend in her sleep one night because of her night terrors.

  2. Regarding what Temerity Jane is going through, in the sleep psychology world, they are called hypnagogic hallucinations if they happen upon falling asleep and hypnapompic hallucinations if they occur upon waking. The latter is more common. Among other things, it happens in people experiencing sleep deprivation. For you, I agree that it sounds like it's not just sleep walking but possibly night terrors. They are often genetic and often come on with fevers and/or stress. Also, if you get poor quality or quantity sleep, they can occur. Night terrors usually involve more of a panicky feeling - heart racing, screaming, etc., whereas sleep walking usually doesn't involve that. I believe the two conditions happen at different points of the sleep cycle. Hope that helps!

  3. Oh, PS - all this means you are not crazy - you just have a parasomnia (aka, sleep problem)!

  4. Well, if this is truly genetic, then you get it from me. I had a similar thing when I was young. Probably until in my 20's. And usually related to a fever. Mine was Popeye's voice. Only evil sounding. Very strange. Sorry to pass that little goody along to you. Love you.

  5. Crazy sleeping runs in my family, I think. I have insane, life-like dreams. They are so real, I can tell no difference between my dreams and reality, other than the fact that I'm sleeping. I can vividly remember images from childhood dreams, particularly the nightmares. I have dreams about random real-life friends (who usually love to hear all about them), dreams that are actually short stories/book ideas, dreams that I have no firgging clue what they're about. All the time.

    Also, I talk, thrash and will communicate with you in my sleep, while dreaming. I've woken up countless times as a kid to my brother and mom sitting on my bed, just making sure I'm alright but actually enjoying a little "let's talk to Crazy Sleeping Kim for a while" time. I answer your questions, sometimes with accurate(ish) answers, other times in gobbledygook answers.

    My 1 full-blood brother was a huge sleepwalker. he'd end up all over the house, doing things like walking down 2 flights of stairs and turning on tvs, opening cabinets, and the like. We never knew where we'd find him.

    What's most interesting would be when Sleep Walking Him would come visit Talking While Crazy Dreaming Me in the night. I'm surprised mom didn't just duct tape us to our beds as part of our bedtime routines.

    So, yes, you have fellow weird sleepers out here in readerland.

  6. Nope! NOT CRAZY.

    One time when I was about 14, I sleptwalked (cause that's what it sounds like to me) in my friend's house right up a flight of stairs, and unlocked three locks before activating their burglar alarm and having her mother shake me into real awake-ness. I no longer sleepwalk, though, and I think sleeping on a bed that was literaly 5 feet off the ground (bunk bed in college) scared my subconscious into not sleep walking again.

  7. Lindsay Payne7/26/11, 8:43 AM

    And I thought it was just me! Just recently (in my late twenties) I started waking up hearing (or much more rarely seeing) things that aren't there. Usually I hear the doorbell or a voice. Last night it was some kind of bizarre alarm. It didn't occur to me that it might be an actual condition, I just figured I was weird. I used to sleepwalk all the time when I was a little kid, right on up till I was a teenager and almost went overboard while on an overnight boat trip. Wonder if they're related?

  8. You know, now that you say that, I think someone else has told me that as well... I guess I always associate night terrors with really young kids screaming in the night for no discernible reason, not semi-coherent, describable hallucinations.

  9. I've read up on some of this from the all-knowing and absolutely reliable wikipedia. They say that it's hard to tell what is a falling-asleep issue and what is a waking-up issue, since they often happen whne people wake in the night and may be falling back to sleep at the same time... For me though, it definitely feels like I'm not waking up correctly. And good news opn the not crazy thing! ;)

  10. You know, you've told me this a few times, but I always seem to forget about it. Popeye being all grumbly and muffled and angry inside your head. Yep, sounds like we're both crazy... ;) Love you!

  11. And isn't your daughter a sleep walker that you find in very strange (and somewhat dangerous) places, like the cupboard shelf in her bedroom?

  12. HA! This reminds me that Roommate used to talk in her sleep in college. I had the tall bed and her short on was tucked perpendicular underneath mine. She would do this creepy whispering thing about chocolate salad and gym teachers that would wake me up and make me thing there werecreepy peopel in the

  13. Maybe they are connected. I did sleep walk a little as a kid (you know, go downstairs, turn on all the lights, go back to bed as if nothing happened kind of thing). Maybe some people just have a harder time with the whole brain-and-body-being-awake-or-alseep-at-the-same-time thing.

  14. Kim at Let Me Start By Saying7/29/11, 12:11 PM

    I do think she was asleep when she crawled up and into that armoire shelf, yeah. And my son wakes up and talks all confusing sometimes, too. My babysitter is both amused and freaked out by what she sees on the video monitors after bedtime round here.