fridgeParasomnias like sleepwalking, sleep driving, sleep eating, and sleep texting make me wonder: what would it be like to wake up in my car “high-centered on a rock,” as an acquaintance said he did, or to kitchen cabinets covered with the glutinous remains of barley soup?

What happened to me a few nights ago is the strangest sleep-related experience I’ve ever had. No, it had nothing to do with alcohol or Ambien (which can cause parasomniac behaviors like sleep eating)–that night I hadn’t touched either one. But I was feeling super stressed out and short on sleep.

A Rude Awakening

In the middle of the night I awakened feeling there was something in my mouth. I swallowed reflexively and then regretted it: whatever was in there definitely was not fit to eat. It felt like tiny bits of plastic mixed with sand and Kleenex. It tasted vile.

What on earth had I done? Taken a mouthful of garbage? Slept with my mouth open and some shiny-shelled insect crawled inside? Yuck and double yuck!

I rushed to the bathroom and spat into the sink. Then I rinsed my mouth with water several times, but the awful taste remained. Could what I’d swallowed be harmful? Exactly what would be the consequences of this disgusting midnight snack? I gargled with mouthwash and then returned to bed.

The curious thing is that I actually fell back to sleep. On any other night, my brush with sleep eating would have sent my body’s early warning system through the roof. Danger, danger! my hormones would have screamed. No way could I have returned to sleep thinking about the poison that just went down the hatch. But on this particular night, my need to sleep trumped even that.

Everything Is Illuminated

I saw exactly what had happened in the morning. The bottle of Omeprazole (a.k.a. Prilosec) capsules I keep on my bedside table was empty, the contents strewn all over my bed and on the floor. The capsule I normally take first thing in the morning for help with digestion had become an after-hours dining experiment instead. But rather than swallow it whole, I held it (or them) in my mouth like a cough drop—to revolting effect.

I must admit the experience shook me up. If I can take pills in my sleep, what’s next? Swallowing a refrigerator magnet? Throwing compost on the neighbors’ lawn?

Becoming a member of the Parasomnia Society does give pause.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done in your sleep?

Posted by Lois Maharg, The Savvy Insomniac

Lois Maharg has worked with language for many years. She taught ESL, coauthored two textbooks, and then became a reporter, writing about health, education, government, Latino affairs, and food. Her lifelong struggle with insomnia and interest in investigative reporting motivated her to write a book, The Savvy Insomniac: A Personal Journey through Science to Better Sleep. She now freelances as an editor and copy writer at On the Mark Editing.


  1. Lois, do be careful what you leave on your bedside table!

    Maybe we could learn to read in our sleep and remember every detail the next morning. Please give that a try and report back in your next blog. I’ll be waiting.



  2. Everyone who hears this story tells me to move the Omeprazole someplace else!

    It would be lovely if we could learn new things in our sleep, but we can’t. What sleep CAN do for us is enhance information we’ve already learned: allow us to make connections and synthesize, and even come up with solutions to problems we couldn’t solve before going to sleep.

    My husband tells this story about the way the famous Indian mathematician Ramanujan came up with his theorems: He claimed they were “written on his tongue” during the night by the goddess Namagiri, or Lakshmi. When he woke up in the morning, he would feverishly write down some unexpected result that would later amaze his colleagues.

    Sleep is pretty important if it enables people to do things like that!



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