What’s sleep got to do with it? Mysteries of the night

Around one-third of adults have experienced sleepwalking at some point in their lives. It was not until I started college that I realized I was part of this statistic.

My twilight journeys began with sleep deprivation and lost headphones. Sleep deprivation has been known to bring about sleepwalking and the college schedule can be conducive to long nights and exhaustion. Three weeks in and I was ready to pull a Rip Van Winkle: Sleep for twenty years and wake up with a beard. Soon after, my roommate told me I was sleepwalking, but I was also sleep-hiding-things-from-myself. The first incident was when I took my phone from my desk and hid it under my mattress and, with no memory of this, consequently freaked out the next morning when I discovered my phone was not there. A few days later I took my headphones and shoved them into the tiniest pocket of my backpack. I didn’t find them for two weeks. I was not just a sleepwalker, I was a sleepwalking kleptomaniac.

Sleepwalking was characterized in 1954 and was initially thought to be a dreamer acting out their dream. According to this theory, my dreams involve a lot of burglary. Twelve years later, a new theory concluded that sleepwalking actually had little to do with dreams, but occurred during REM sleep, when dreams were not reported. In 1907, Sigmund Freud proposed that the goal of the sleepwalker was to return to the original childhood sleeping place.

The recommended amount of sleep is seven to nine hours a night; however, in college, I’d say those numbers are more like three to five. Napoleon Bonaparte famously said, “Six hours sleep for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool.” Leonardo DaVinci survived and thrived on one hour and fifteen minutes of sleep a day. There was a time in history when getting a substantial amount of sleep was a sign of laziness and worthlessness. Now, we’d consider those people lucky. After the Industrial Age, people found themselves able to stay up later because of the invention of the gas light, which illuminated the streets at night, and the light bulb, which lit up the home. Imagine staying up in the dark with nothing but a dim candle to finish writing that Freshman Studies paper. We’d all have a greater appreciation of Abraham Lincoln, doing math on a shovel in firelight.

Even when not writing a Freshman Studies paper, you may be thinking of it. One morning I awoke to my roommate arriving only to realize I had slept through my 8:30 a.m. class, which apparently caused  some mental scarring. Later, one night, she arrived home at 4:30 a.m. and I bolted up in bed, completlely certain I had missed my 8:30 class. Sleep can reveal some of the most pressing anxieties of our subconcious, which in college multiplies.

Some people can survive with no sleep at all, while others may find their general health and mood declining. Others, like me, could find that they suddenly get up in the middle of the night and walk around the room, completely freaking out their roommate. Now that we live with others, our sleep habits have been brought to our attention. I had never been a sleepwalker before, let alone a self-inflicted kleptomaniac, but the new environment of college brought out my thievery. As for others, I can only say that sleep is essential, so that sleep habits don’t become worse.