Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

All about Sleep from A to Zzzz by Elaine Scott

This story came out of London England in 2005: "Girl who woke up on a crane." On Saturday, June 25, 2005 a fifteen-year-old girl was discovered asleep on a concrete counter-weight on a narrow metal beam on top of a 130ft. crane. The firemen didn't immediately want to wake her. How come? Carefully, they put a safety harness around her and used the girl's cell phone to inform her parents where they found her. The firemen later discovered why she had climbed the crane. She didn't climb the crane to hurt herself. She didn't climb the crane to protest something. She didn't climb it to paint a graffetti message. When the rescue team contacted her parents they learned that she was a frequent sleepwalker! Experts from a London sleep center remarked that this was an unusual case, but they weren't surprised. The sleep experts had come across sleep walkers in the past who have driven cars, ridden horses and even attempted to fly helicopters.

Contrary to what most people think, sleepwalking doesn't occur when a person dreams. Sleepwalking occurs in a non-dreaming sleep state. Sleepwalkers usually have their eyes open. Sleepwalking doesn't indicate a severe psychological problem and usually occurs most frequently in children between 5-12 years old, but can continue beyond the middle school years.

What do you think would have happened if the firemen had immediately tried to wake the girl? What do you think should be done with a person found sleepwalking? (Don't wake them, gently steer them back to bed.)

This story and many others are found in the book, All about Sleep from A to Zzzz, by Elaine Scott. It's a quick fun read about things most of us don't realize about sleep.

Do you have any sleepwalking stories?

I'm sure some of you have experienced a hypnic jerk. This happens when your body jerks as you are about to fall asleep. By the way this is our body's reaction to protect itself. Our body confuses the sensation of falling asleep with the sensation of actually falling down(p.24).

I found the most fascinating section of the book to be about sleep paralysis. At a certain stage of sleep our bodies actually freeze or lock up. This is a good thing because this is when we are actively dreaming. Imagine what would happen if you started acting out some of your dreams!

Finally, you'd probably be surprised to find out that 15 minutes of extra sleep everynight can improve your grades in school. A study done in Minnesota showed that A students sleep 15 minutes more than B students. B students sleep 11 more minutes than C students. C students sleep 10 more minutes than D students.

There's a lot more I'd like to share with you about how sleep deprivation is used as torture, the meanings behind dreams, and my own theories about how sleep paralysis might explain why some people think they have been abducted by aliens.

(Take a look at Nova's Science Now story on sleep.)

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