Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

Kerry McLean: If only I could get my sleepwalking child to do the housework before she awakes

It can be quite a surprise to see your child sleepwalking
It can be quite a surprise to see your child sleepwalking

By Kerry McLean

We're never happy here, are we? We're a nation obsessed with the weather and, for most of the 12 months of the year, we're constantly complaining about the chill in the air and the grey and rainy clouds overhead.

If we're lucky, over the course of the summer season we may get two or three days in a row when the sun shines, the sky turns a bright shade of azure blue and temperatures reach the dizzying heights of the mid-20s.

So, are we all ecstatic with this sudden climb up the thermometer? Are we basking in the warmth and casting out as many rays of happiness as there are rays of sunshine? Of course not.

Instead, we switch to moaning about the heat and our sunburnt bits and the fact that we can't sleep at night.

Or, perhaps, that's just me? Because, I have to be honest, I've not coped overly well with how hot it has been over the last few days and I've been giving off about it to anyone who stays long enough in my company to listen. I am much like dairy products. I'm as white as a pint of milk, I'm best kept in fridge-like conditions or I become unpleasant and, much like a lump of cheddar, sweaty and unattractive if I'm left out in the sun for too long. My freckly skin glows red and my make-up, which may have started the day on my face, ends up somewhere around my chin by the time I leave work.

As someone who regularly experiences spells of insomnia, being unable to fall or stay asleep in the muggy, humid heat of the night doesn't really worry me, but it does concern me that I've suddenly got company. The high temperatures have reignited my daughter's habit of sleepwalking, something she did regularly as a child during the summer months.

The first time it happened was when she was only five. I was sitting in the kitchen on my own, waiting for my husband to get home from work and, thinking my children were fast asleep upstairs, I had settled down with a good book and a big mug of tea and a packet of chocolate digestives for dunking. I was reaching out for another biscuit when a movement caught my eye.

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My daughter, quiet as a mouse, had walked into the room and was standing behind my chair. I nearly leapt out of my skin before I realised it was her but, despite me wailing like a banshee, she just stood there silently, looking through me.

Eventually I realised she was still sound asleep.

Over the next few months and years, I learned to sit, facing the kitchen door to avoid any more shocks when she went wandering in the middle of the night.

It surprised me when I found her standing stock-still at the front door on Tuesday as it had been years since she'd gone on midnight manoeuvres.

I popped her back into bed and, as usual in the morning, she had no recollection.

But I'm wondering, if this becomes a regular occurrence again, could I put my teenager to use in a way I could never manage when she's fully conscious?

Only this week, I was reading about some other women who are regular somnambulists. One spends her trance-like time doing the laundry and ironing.

Another described how her husband often found her giving their bathroom a deep clean or, rather more antisocially in the early AM, running the vacuum cleaner around the house.

But it wasn't always helpful tasks that were undertaken by the sleepwalkers. There was also the woman who regularly mistook her wicker laundry basket for her toilet and another who had to ask her husband to hide her smartphone and credit cards before she nodded off as she's prone to sleep-shopping, waking to find that she has bought everything from dog food, to hundreds of toilet rolls to, the most expensive of her purchases, a £300 skydive experience.

I may not have figured out how to encourage my sleeping beauty into completing the housework for me, but at least her feet are still firmly on the ground, even if they are still in her slippers.

Belfast Telegraph


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