One of the most misunderstood of all human behaviors are parasomnias, or sleep disorders. Children can experience night terrors and sleepwalking episodes, and some adults can experience violent episodes, or even murder in their sleep.
An April 22 report by ABC News updates us on the case of Adam Kearns, an Oregon man who punched his wife, Randi, in the face three times, then appeared to have gone back to sleep. The report states on the fated night two months ago, the Kearns’ 5-year-old son ran into the bedroom having a night terror, and Adam jumped out of bed and started to strike Randi with his fist, according to ABC’s account of the 911 call Randi made that night.
“It was like he was asleep,” Randi Kearns said on the 911 tape. “It was the weirdest thing – he ‘s never hurt me in his life.”
Adam Kearns was later diagnosed with REM Behavior Disorder (13WHAM News). According to WebMD, REM sleep disorder occurs when the body does not slip into the paralysis associated with the REM sleep cycle. Other factors in REM sleep are are rapid eye movements, irregular breathing and a rise in blood pressure.
The Kearns family is of several cases over the past two decades of violent – and sometimes heinous – crimes committed during sleep. According to Rosalind Cartwright, former director of the sleep disorder center at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, most people are actually very nice people when in a waking state.
“Sleepwalkers can be violent,” Cartwright told ABC News. “The upper frontal lobe, the most evolved part of the brain where moral teaching lives, is fast asleep.” According to ABC, 20 percent of all children, male and female, are sleepwalkers. It usually peaks around age 11 or 12, and diminishes as they mature. If it continues into adulthood, it can be troublesome.
Over the past two decades, ABC News has documented several cases of REM Behavior Disorder and other sleep disorders that take a turn for the worse. One of the most famous cases of violent somnambulism is the 1987 case of Kenneth Parks. ABC reported the 2, Parks got out of bed, got in his car and drove 14 miles to the residence of his in-laws. While still asleep, Parks stabbed and killed his mother-in-law, and assaulted his father-in-law. According to ABC, Parks was found not guilty of the charges against him.
In 1999, Scott Falater of Arizona was found guilty of stabbing his wife 44 times, according to ABC News. Falater’s defense was a history of sleep disorders, though he never denied what he had done. According to ABC,. Falater had been trying to fix a faulty swimming pool pump, and his wife may have interrupted, causing the attack. Neighbors testified to seeing him go inside to wash his hands, tell his dog to lie down, and roll his wife’s body into the pool, holding her underwater (ABC News).
ABC News also documented the 2007 case of British Air Force mechanic Nick Walker, 26, was found not guilty of charges brought against him for the rape of a 15-year-old during a bout of sleepwalking. Ironically, his military nickname was “night walker,” after his nocturnal activities.
There is a drug that can help sufferers of REM Behavior Disorder. According to ABC News, Clonazepam will relax the muscles during sleep, allowing the body to properly enter into the REM cycle.
Sleepwalking can be a scary thing to witness. According to Cartwright, a sleepwalker has perfect motor skills, but will not recognize who is talking to them. Sadly, she said, this is the reason so many episodes turn violent. If you or anyone you know is experiencing sleepwalking, you are urged to seek help from your doctor. He or she can refer you to specialists who can help you live with this frightening disorder.