• Unwelcome habit
I’d have no memory of my nocturnal adventures though my family and friends had a rollicking time narrating them. Apparently, I used to have long conversations, at times even shout out loud. These conversations weren’t gibberish, but clear dialogue about a subject.
Also there wasn’t any fixed time for my sleepwalking. It could be within a few minutes of hitting the sack or an hour or two. It would last from a few seconds to 30 minutes. I’d wake up, walk around and talk, then snap out of it and get back to bed! There were occasions when I sleep-walked about six times in a night!
When these stints became more frequent, my parents started getting worried, especially since we stayed on the ninth floor of the building. Once they saw me wake up and stand pretty close to the edge of my window ‘talking’ to my friends on the eighth floor! They then got my room barricaded.
However, during my sleepwalking, my parents never woke me as doing so can lead a person into a state of shock or increase his/her heart rate. You either let him/her complete the act or guide him/her to bed gently.
• The problem continues
This problem continued well into my teens and adulthood. I then noticed that it was during high-stress situations that I sleepwalked the most.
Needless to say, it led to several embarrassing and hilarious situations. In 2005 when I went to London for a show with Hrithik Roshan, Yana Gupta and others, I was a bit stressed about my performance. When I went to sleep that night, I remember opening my eyes and running out of the room. Suddenly a mental alarm went off and I awoke only to see the door shut! Dressed in my nightdress, it was embarrassing to awaken others to get help!
Similarly, during the shoot of One Two Three in Goa, I tried to walk out of the room in my sleep and was so frustrated when I couldn’t that I broke the door and wrenched the lock. I wonder where I got the strength from!
• Therapy time
It’s not as if I didn’t try to cure it. One expert said it’s a reflection of my sub-conscious. When something happens, I don’t experience or express that emotion immediately and tend to repress it. But my subconscious acts up later. It’s probably true for several times when I wake up and find that my eyes are wet!
When I was 10, my parents took me to a counsellor who said I should always be happy. In college too, my mum took me to a hypnotherapist but to no avail. Only homeopathy worked to some extent as it helped me calm down.
Sleepwalking treatment requires a holistic approach and the patient’s sleep history is analysed
• Spirituality’s the saviour
Finally, under the influence of my sister, I turned to meditation about four or five years back. I have done all the courses — Art of Living, Vipassana, Oneness University etc. Now I do my own breathing exercises and at any given time, I can get into a meditative trance.
Soon after I started meditating I felt my system get cleansed. Emotionally, I learnt to deal with weighty issues. In fact, I actually called up people who had hurt me in the past and forgave them and vice-versa.
Now I meditate every day before I sleep. I sit on my knees, express gratitude, gradually go over all the events of the day and maintain silence. Slowly I drift into sleep, put my head down as though I am crouching (known as child’s pose) and go into deep slumber.
The results have been pretty good. After I went to the Oneness University, for almost five months I didn’t sleepwalk. Even now it has reduced, though a couple of weeks ago I was back to my old self!
• Humour helps
Fortunately, it doesn’t bother me now and I have learned to laugh about it. But I have started taking a deeper interest in matters of mental wellbeing. Books such as Eckhar Tolle’s The Power of Now have hugely helped me exist in the present, conduct relationships properly and become more aware of myself. And I guess the kind of stress we face these days, particularly, in Bollywood, every effort counts!
Dr S Ramnathan Iyer, consultant physician-sleep medicine, at Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, Powai, provides a few insights on sleepwalking.
There are two types of sleep: rapid eye movement and non-rapid eye movement sleep. Instability in the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) is the background on which sleepwalking or somnambulism — a disorder belonging to the parasomnia family — occurs.
The usual triggers are stress, anxiety, emotionally charged memories, fever, alcohol intake and sleep-deprivation. Some common diseases associated with sleepwalking are sleep disorder breathing or obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and period leg movement syndrome.
In extreme cases, it can cause injury, especially if the activities are violent (agitated). Here a patient may harm others or her/himself, cause accidents, etc. But the acts can also be mumbling or talking during sleep.