Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Curious Case of the Sleep E-mailer

Add e-mailing to the long list of behaviors that can occur during an episode of sleepwalking.

The journal
Sleep Medicine has an article “in press” that will appear in an upcoming issue. It describes the case of a woman who sent some strange e-mails while she was asleep.

Sleepwalking can involve routine or unusual behaviors. Examples include making phone calls, walking outside or eating. But this is the first reported case of sleep e-mailing.

New York Times reports that the woman was taking Ambien for her insomnia. The sleep e-mailing occurred after she decided on her own to increase her dose.

Like any other drug, sleep medications may cause some side effects. These side effects can include sleepwalking,
sleep eating and other complex sleep behaviors. Some people also may experience memory problems.

AASM Tips for Taking Sleep Medications note that you should follow your doctor’s instructions when taking a sleeping pill. Never increase the dose on your own. You also should only take the sleeping pill for as many days or weeks as your doctor tells you.

The Times article also reports that a new feature from Google could help protect sleepwalkers from sending embarrassing e-mails. It’s called
Mail Goggles.

When enabled, it stops you from sending late-night e-mails on weekends. Before a message is sent, you have to solve a few math problems. The intent is to force you to stop and consider if you really want to send the message.

The math problems are fairly simple. But for a sleepwalker, it might be enough to prevent you from sending a strange e-mail to a co-worker or friend.

Update 03/02/09: The article appears in the February 2009 issue (volume 10, issue 2) of Sleep Medicine.

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