Scary stories from a lovely place

Tips for living with a sleep talker

For two years now I’ve been sharing a bed with a sleep talker. I’ve been known to walk in my sleep, (my best was out of a hotel room door), mumble and grind my teeth. But Stephen talks, he’ll only say a couple of sentences, but they are in English and they are audible. I noticed it a lot when we first got married, I guess because it was a new experience sleeping centimetres away from this nonsense. Lately though the sleep talking has made a resurgence and I blame Stephen’s avid reading of a motorcycle adventure book called ‘Mondo Enduro’. Stephen has to make sure he doesn’t read it just before he closes his eyes or he will have wild dreams all night, of which I bear the brunt.

Don't be fooled by the angelic faces

These are the coping mechanisms I’ve learned over the last two years.

1. Don’t take it personally
Soon after we were married we had the cliched discussion about who is a bed hog, who rolls into the middle and who steals the sheets (all Stephen). Such a scene has surely been repeated in many newly christened nuptial beds and you can imagine how sickly sweet it is. Anyway, we still have the debate and it’s not so sweet anymore. But soon after we were married my softly spoken, mild mannered, gentle husband sat up in bed, turned to face me, leaned forward on his fists and said in a voice befitting a demon “that’s your side”. I was still new to the whole living with a sleep talker thing so it took me a few moments to realise the deranged look in his eyes did not belong to a conscious husband. A sleep talker could say anything at night, and so it’s good not to take it personally. Though I don’t know what I would do if it were a revealing confession.

2. Don’t take it literally
Along with not taking things personally, it is important not to take everything the sleep talker says literally. Stephen has had quite a few motorbike related dreams and wakes up in a fit of excitement. This is usually preceded by an almighty gasp of fear. If we lived in some peaceful, seaside town in Australia such a gasp wouldn’t worry me. But living in Joburg where night time crime is a very real event, it’s not a nice way to be woken.

3. And don’t panic
Similarly, it’s important not to panic. The other morning I told Stephen that the alarm had gone off. Despite my recent post on Silas’ almost sleeping through the night efforts, this week he’s been waking at 3 and 4am ready for the day. So when the alarm goes off at 0530 to get up, we need to be forgiven for being pretty tired. Stephen’s response to my prompting was “the car alarm?” Another time I moved the curtain to look out the window and the talker said “is there someone out there?” Again, not literal, no need to panic.

4. Don’t try and understand

The other night Stephen kept sitting up and saying in a loud voice “that bag, that bag, that one, that bag”. I was feeling less than compassionate because I was worried he would wake Silas. I just shooshed him in an equally loud voice. Sleep talkers are communicating from a bizarre state of unconscious semi-consciousness. Who knows what’s going on inside their bleary heads.

5. Enjoy it
Finally, appreciate any kind sentiments that may come through the fog. Stephen has sat up in the middle of the night and offered to pray for me. I think what’s happened in his sleep addled brain is he panics that he has dropped off in the middle of our night-time prayers, feels guilty, and tries to rectify the situation. So don’t take most of it seriously, but if by some chance your sleep talker expresses kindness, accept it.

Good luck!


5 comments on “Tips for living with a sleep talker

  1. Eyes
    March 24, 2011

    You had me laughing Kim – I’m a sleep talker and Stu has no end of delight recounting various stories of mumbo jumbo I go on with. The worst sleep talker is without a doubt my brother, who talks 20-30 times every night. My poor parents suffered insomnia so would often come rushing down the corridor at home to silence my brother and I conversing across the hallway, only to realise we were both sound asleep… Just a hint – I sleep talk when I’m too hot at night. We switched to a lighter blanket and that abated – along with my more vivid dreams!

  2. Naomi
    March 25, 2011

    I sleep with a sleep talker too. We call the episodes “crazies”, as in, you had a crazy last night. He often sits bolt upright in bed and starts looking for our children supposedly being suffocated under the covers, or snakes or spiders in the bed. He sometimes thinks there are robbers in the house. The worst time was when I was pregnant and getting up lots to go to the loo, he though I was a robber and hid behind a door ready to attack me, he stopped centimetres from punching me when he heard my gasp and realised it was me. Pretty scary. Mostly I just ignore him now and tell him to go back to sleep to which he replies angrily to me that I don’t understand what’s happening. We laugh about it in the morning.

  3. Bec
    March 28, 2011

    Tim’s been good of late… but he too has episodes from time to time. Definitely the worst was when we were camped in the Okavango Delta… I was scared enough in that little tent with the lions, elephants etc. just outside and crazy malaria tablet dreams of hands grabbing me through the tent without his crazed mumblings. But most of the time I work it all out pretty quickly and just tell him he’s not making sense and to go to sleep… it works for us.
    One thing is… from talking to people I hear more about men behaving in these ways then women… I do hear of women doing it too, but less frequently and the stories I’ve heard don’t tend to be as crazy???

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This entry was posted on March 24, 2011 by in Home and tagged , , , , .
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