It’s Like I’m Sleepwalking: How is Sleepwalking Misrepresented in the Media?


Tom Simpkins - January 31, 2019 Content Marketing Specialist at Happy Beds, an avid reader of eclectic books, ambitious chef of French cuisine, adept at crafting tantalising cocktails, and more often than not, curled up in bed.

It’s Like I’m Sleepwalking: How is Sleepwalking Misrepresented in the Media?

Here at Happy Beds we love to discuss how the country, the media and even the world thinks about the likes of sleeping and beds. Whether it’s how television has showcased dreams for dramatic effect or how video games use sleep as a means of justifying elements of the narrative, sleep is the basis of fiction everywhere, but it isn’t necessarily represented fairly. Somnambulism, the technical name for sleepwalking, is often relied upon as a trope. Some may think that this phenomenon is unique to humans, and yet we see the likes of this:

Dog Sleepwalking

Utterly charming! Even the word ‘sleepwalking’ will surely conjure images such as walking robotically with arms stretched out, but this is much more fiction than fact; unless someone’s really trying to fake it.. Neither do the following tropes, the likes of which run rampant in television, films, games and even comics.


The Classic ‘Zombie Walk’

Classic sleepwalking trope number one: the zombie walk is virtually synonymous with sleepwalking in media representations.. Yes, if someone begins to sleepwalk with their arms upraised and lightly snoring in a film, show or game then you can bet your comically large nightcap that they’re going to leave the safety of their bedroom to roam the night.

Though there are shows that use sleepwalking for specific episodes, other mediums make use of this trope much more, especially video games. At one point, there was even a game based on sleepwalking in 1993 for the Amiga, known as ‘Sleepwalker’. The game revolves around a dog’s master sleepwalking every night which, somehow, anthropomorphises the dog so that he can physically stop the kid from walking off of rooftops, running into gangsters or strolling into a tiger’s cage, zombie walk intact.

Step Brothers Sleepwalking

The Exacerbated ‘Odd Behaviour'

This whole shtick is one of the elements of sleepwalking that is, more often than not, blown out of proportion for the sake of anything from humour to a justification of incredibly bizarre behaviour. Now, in reality this isn’t something exclusive to the realms of fiction; it’s been reported that sleepwalkers have done everything from going to the bathroom to going for a drive. These cases have often been linked to drugs such as Ambien, which is used to treat sleeping problems, but that doesn’t explain how characters in films and television shows get up to untold levels of weirdness. It’s this occurrence that often leads people to adhere to the old wives tale that you shouldn’t wake up someone sleep walking; something that’s really played on during the excellent ‘Step Brothers’.


The ‘Slumbering Personality’

Speaking of a darker personality; enter the likes of ‘Fight Club’s Narrator, or more accurately, Tyler Durden. The trope of having a split personality, one that awakens when the main personality goes to sleep, isn’t common but when it occurs it’s showcased in the extreme. For example, the girl from The Last Exorcism, when she drowns a cat and pretended to be possessed by a demon…Or was that when she messing with them? But didn’t it end with real demonic stuff? Who knows, who remembers?

Spoilers for a two decade old film incoming: the unnamed and insomniac Narrator, who also serves as the protagonist, discovers that his friend and mentor (the man who’s essentially the catalyst for this whole film) is actually himself when he goes to sleep.

This type of split-personality is incredibly rare and is yet another example of media inventing excitement in an ailment for narrative reasons. More often than not, the worst sleepwalking will result in is eating a snack in front of the fridge at 3AM.


The Freudian ‘Guilt-Induced Sleepwalking’

Classic literature and plays aren’t immune to these tropes, though unlike other mediums of entertainment it makes use of sleepwalking in somewhat more drastic and pivotal manner. For example, Bellini’s opera is called ‘La Sonnambula’, or in English, ‘The Sleepwalker’, and the entire story revolves around a sleepwalking woman being accused of cheating on her lover and then later clearing her own name; all due to sleepwalking.

In regards to guilt-induced sleepwalking we need not look any further than the stage’s first lady: Lady Macbeth. Classic literature and drama students will remember the story of Macbeth, as well as the role his wife, Lady Macbeth, played throughout both his rise and fall of power. Her peak in this story though is during her slip into insanity, where she, whilst sleepwalking, attempts to justify her actions whilst attempting to wash off her guilt.

Of course, this is just a hand of examples of how sleepwalking ‘works’ across various shows, films and so on. Do you have any good examples that spring to mind, or have you done anything like these examples when you’ve been sleepwalking? Tweet us, find us on Facebook and tag us on Instagram with your thoughts!

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