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Rebeccah has walked in her sleep since she was four years old, but now she is terrified she will hurt her six-month-old daughter during an episode. As a child, Rebeccah would sometimes open the doors in her sleep and walk outside, scaring her family and herself. She once broke her ankle jumping in her sleep.
Pediatricians told her parents she'd grow out of it, but at 22 she is still sleepwalking regularly. “Ever since I had my daughter, I just dread going to sleep,” Rebeccah admits. “There have been incidents where I pick her up and hold her when I'm asleep.”
Her husband, Jeremy, is sometimes away 36 hours at a time for work. Rebeccah refuses to sleep while she's alone with baby Charlie, so she just stays up. And her sleepwalking is worse than ever. When she was a child it happened maybe once a month – now she's walking in her sleep two or three times a week.
The Doctors arrange for Rebeccah to see a sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta. Rebeccah tells him that she is waking up to care for the baby 3 to 10 times a night, and she doesn't nap during the day.
Dr. Dasgupta explains that sleep deprivation is a trigger for parasomnias – sleep disorders like sleepwalking. On top of that, Rebeccah has other family members who have parasomnias, so she's genetically predisposed. And now that she's afraid to sleep she's having insomnia, which makes her even more sleep-deprived and more prone to sleepwalking when she does drift off. “She's caught up in a deadly triangle,” he says.
He prescribes 20 to 30-minute naps during the day and urges Rebeccah to pump and store breastmilk during the day so Jeremy can feed the baby at night. “Always say yes to help!” is his rule for new mothers. Charlie is close to the age where she can sleep through the night, so Rebeccah will soon have some relief.
ER physician Dr. Travis Stork announces that Rebeccah can sleep easy. Care.com has donated a six-month premium membership for her, and included $1,600 in credits toward childcare, housecleaning – even pet-sitting! -- so she can get some time to herself.
Dr. Stork also recommends a bedtime latte full of sleep-promoting ingredients: turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, black pepper, and milk (Get the bedtime latte recipe here!) Studies have shown turmeric and saffron might be almost as effective as prescription medicine. Dr. Dasgupta recommends seeing if this kind of remedy helps for you, along with good sleep hygiene.
Rebeccah should be on the road to a good night's sleep now. As Dr. Stork points out, “to solve a problem you first have to know what it is,” and Dr. Dasgupta has given her some answers.