back to article First case of sleep emailing documented

If you thought drunken email was a unwelcome recipe for embarrassment, now you can worry about the real possibility of emailing while sound asleep. An upcoming article in the trade journal Sleep Medicine details the exceptional case of a lady insomniac who can compose email messages while catching 40 winks. The researchers …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not as suprising as one might think

    I have myself wondered how common this is. More than once, I have woken up to find my laptop open, and a bunch of code modified that I have no memory of working on. Now, I can't say that I was sleep-programming, as it could be any number of things that cause you to not remember what you do late at night. For all I know, I could have woken up, coded in an effort to get back to sleep, and not remembered any of it. Who knows? (Sadly, my coworkers comment that my best code is the code I don't remember writing.)

    Thing of it is, I never really considered it all that abnormal. I have a friend who is a painter, and she has been known to paint in her sleep. I know of at least two chronic sleepwalkers. I think that there needs to be a study on if this sort of thing really is "performing a complex activity while asleep" or simply "not remembering doing something." I.E. are you at that point experiencing REM sleep or not?

    I always sort of thought of it like yarding out a flash drive from the system before the write buffer had finished emptying. The last bit of your day's memories just didn't get written. What are your guys' thoughts?

  2. hikaricore
    Dead Vulture

    old news

    read it weeks ago

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    That's nothing

    I have a friend who applied for a job online in her sleep, and manged to set up an interview. She also left herself a note next to her computer to that effect, somehow aware that her awake self wouldn't remember the whole process the next day.

    She was very surprised the next day to find a note from herself, and following the instructions, discovered she had an interview scheduled in Chicago (she lived in Connecticut at the time.)

    I don't believe there was any Ambien involved.

    Yes, she went on the interview, but no, she didn't get the job.

    Paris, 'cause one wonders what she's done that she can't remember.

  4. Neoc


    "The patient had no memory of such a message, so checked her inbox only to discover three emails had been sent while she was asleep within eight minutes of each other."

    Surely, she would have check her outbox, not her inbox.

    "While staying at a relatives house, he was even able to start the unfamiliar computer, enter a user name and password to log in, launch the web browser, access the website, and enter her password to compose and send out her somnambulant message."

    Leaving aside the lack of apostrophe, this woman also obviously suffers from Gender Confusion, being able to go from "he" to "she" in the time it takes for the computer to boot up.

    Having said that, I have apparently driven the last 120Km (about 75Km) of a very long road-trip while fast asleep. I say "apparently" because the last thing I remember was pulling over so I could get some sleep.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Am I sleeping now...

    Look, I have managed to get onto the Register's website, read a boring story about someone who 'wakes up' in the middle of the night and sends bizarre emails to people she loves and cares about, forgets it all and then goes back to sleep again. Yawn, yawn...

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Not only asleep ...

    But obviously changing sex at the same time!

    While staying at a relatives house, ***he*** was even able to start the unfamiliar computer, enter a user name and password to log in, launch the web browser, access the website, and enter ***her*** password to compose and send out ***her *** somnambulant messages.

    Terrible standard of writing, never been so shocked, what's the world coming to, journalists of today, so appalled I shall cancel my subscription, all the usual.



  7. Sir Runcible Spoon


    I tell you what Hicky, why don't you just not fucking come here at all if all you're gonna do is troll.


  8. Tim

    or it can just make you forgetful/embarrassed.

    I dont think we should take this as evidence, given the fact that she has a history of insomnia (meaning it is quite possible she wasnt asleep, but that the copious mind bending drugs made her forget she was awake).

    she probably isnt dyslexic either, as that is impossible according to a certain MP.

  9. Rebecca Putman

    Editorial Oopsie...

    "While staying at a relatives house, he was... " s/b "While staying at a relatives house, she was..."

  10. Martin Owens

    Sleep er

    The one thing that always cracks me up is how easily we fool ourselves into thinking that we are whole, single, immutable beings, barely even look like animals, let alone could ever be related to them.

    Wake up humans! Your brains are just a pile of globs that turn themselves on and off and different parts of the day. Obviously the frontal cortex was kipping while the lobes went wild.

  11. Richard

    Two nitpicks...

    I think she probably checked her sent items, not her inbox.

    Also, there are plenty of examples of "complex nonviolent cognitive behavior" (during sleep), but certainly this must be more complex than most.

    One horrifying documented story was about a guy in his 30's who slept-killed-his-dad. (His dad had moved in with him.) IIRC there was a trail of destruction round the house as the son chased him from room-to-room. He finally managed to beat him to death on the lawn. The son rinsed his bloodstained clothes in the bath, hung them up to dry and went back to bed. The next thing he knows he's got a visit by the police.

    Assuming it was out of character - which was his successful defence in court - this makes me think that people can do stuff in their sleep, (and not just half-awake and not remembering it.)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    great excuse...

    Now I can stop admitting I was drunk when I did it!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    That's nothing. I often work a full day whilst asleep.

  14. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    I've hung a picture in my sleep

    Went to bed thinking "Must hang that picture tomorrow", woke up in the morning and it was done. So, either I did it and forgot, did it in my slkepp or - and this is my theory - the Picture Hanging Fairy did it in the night. (Well, not every applicant can be Tooth Fairy, the others must get other jobs. Stands to reason.)

  15. Anonymous Coward

    RE: old news

    > old news, read it weeks ago

    Yes, would the Reg PLEASE stop publishing stories that might previously have been covered by other sources, and restrict yourselves to exclusives in future?

    It is well known that all of your readers check every single alternative news source in the world regularly, so there is simply no way that we wouldn't all already be aware of all these non-exclusive stories, and no point in you continuing the frankly ridiculous activity of reporting a story that has already appeared somewhere else.

  16. Martin

    Potential Spammer's defense ?

    I was asleep when I sent those 3 million dodgy viagra emails M'lud.....Honest!

  17. Paul

    RE:Not as suprising as one might think

    "Sadly, my coworkers comment that my best code is the code I don't remember writing."

    Sounds like a good reason to be drunk at work. "Shory guuuysss I need to be dunk. I work besst thish way."

  18. bothwell

    yeah yeah, imagine a title here

    "complex nonviolent cognitive behavior"?

    Does that mean that complex VIOLENT cognitive behaviour has already been observed? I would like to know more about this, if so.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds more productive than most emails I receive

    from people who are allegedly awake

    /me deletes another stack of FW:FW:FW:FW:FW:FW:FW:FW:OMG funneee!!s

  20. Anonymous Coward

    That Explains

    That explains some of the emails received from senders in my own organisation - I always thought they slept at their desks!

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like..........

    A Zombie Usernet to me.

    Did the subject of the article get their meds online, maybe from an email they got regarding enhancing their sexual prowess?

  22. Eric Olson

    Morbid, I know...

    But I thought that the link regarding people killing themselves in their sleep was going to link to the story about the man in Wisconsin, USA who slept walked out his door last night, into the icy grip of lethal hypothermia. I know... it's a heartless thing to say.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I have a similar problem.

    I go to sleep and wake up to find pr0n on my pc. LOTS OF IT!

    This is serious.

  24. Deryk Barker
    Thumb Down

    And the evidence?

    Where was the evidence that she was actually asleep? Many drugs can affect memory: why not simply assume that she wrote the emails while under the influence and then forgot.


  25. Charles Manning

    Occam's razor

    The most obvious explanation:

    She fabricated the event when she changed her mind about the differ.

    Still, it could have been the drugs that knocked out her memory. I once had a tranquilizer for some dental surgery that leaves you completely conscious and awake, but you have no memory of the time in the chair. . I was able to do all the things that the dentist wanted (open mouth, sit up and do xxx) but recalled nothing. Now the drug I was given there was intended to produce this effect. However some people have odd-ball drug reactions and this woman could have just had ber memory wiped for a few hours.

  26. jai


    hang on - she was at a friends place, and started up their computer and typed in their username and password to log in? or did the article just make that up? or was the friend's password something ridiculous obvious?

    because otherwise, surely sleep-emalling is nothing compared to sleep-hacking through the windows login screen?

  27. Ray


    If we're gonna get fussy about swapping genders and dropping apostrophes, I feel I should point out a gross error in your calculations, viz:

    "I have apparently driven the last 120Km (about 75Km)" ...

    120km is not 75km. It's actually 867.7722 Brontosauri.

  28. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    RE: RE: old news

    Yes, and while we're at it, let us forbid any repetition of any news article that has already appeared somewhere.

    If it was reported in the Absarokee Chronicles, well that's it, it's been said once, no use repeating it.

    From now on, all news outlets should be required to check if any other news outlet has already posted said tidbit. Only if the search comes up empty can the news outlet publish it.

    Of course, this will require a central, worldwide database that records every single article.

    I suggest we base that database in a UK government IT project, thus its integrity, coherence and functionality will be ensured.

    Once that is done, we can all just go read the database instead of bothering with local copies that are carbon-unfriendly and wasteful of paper.

    Now go wash your hands before eating your dinner.

  29. Anonymous Coward


    There's a whole shower of monkeys in Westminster who always seem to be asleep. Not sure how complex their cognition is though!

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Sleep e-mailing and vacuuming

    When I was at University, when staying over in my gf's room I would suddenly bolt upright and get out of bed in a fashion that she knew I was sleep walking. Sometimes I checked my e-mail, sometimes I just went to the toilet (naked), which was down the hallway and sometimes I would just try to pee in the room. The latter was normally averted thankfully by the gf, but there were times she didn't get there in time.

    When she asked me what I was doing at the computer, I would apparently respond in a slow drone "Am checking mmmmmaill" or something to that effect. Sometimes the computer wasn't even on when I was moving the mouse around so who knows what the hell I was imagining.

    I still don't think it beats my aunties friend when she was younger. He sleep vacuum's. He would wake up, go downstairs to wherever the vacuum was stored, plug it in and then start hoovering. It got to the point where the family had to lock it up as they were sick of being woken up by the noise. When the guy went to stay at a friends the same happened. I can only guess he subconsciously knew where the vacuum may be?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Occams razor

    Nah, the most likely event is sleep emailing!

    I reckon dreams are just her running a simulation of the days events, normally with control to the muscles turned off, as a learning process.

    Control to the eyes is too many connections and can't be turned off, so instead it covers the eyes to block the visual stimulus (you close your eyelids!).

    Control of the mouth can't be shut off, but with the lungs on autopilot it does not matter, no air flow means no sound. Sometimes people can sleep talk though.

    Control of the ears can't be shut off, if you talk to someone in their sleep you can influence their dreams.

    The trouble with this drug is it makes the dream without shutting off the motor controls apparently. A known side effect.

  32. Niall Campbell

    @ nitpicking@neoc by Ray

    You forgot to mention that the 120kilometres actually converts to: 74.564543 miles!!!!!

  33. Random Noise

    And the twist is...

    ..she was Tyler all along.

  34. Phill Sacre

    Sleep working

    "Sadly, my coworkers comment that my best code is the code I don't remember writing."

    This gives me a great idea. Why can't scientists make a drug which would make you sleep-work?

    You get to work at 9am, take the drug and fall asleep. You then work throughout the day, asleep, and wake up when it's time to go home.

    Then you've got the rest of the day / night to do whatever you want to do. Sounds like a plan to me ;)

  35. Gianni Straniero

    Reminder: Wake Up

    I woke up one morning to the chimes of my PDA. Apparently, I had an appointment at 7.30 am with someone called "Wake Up". I had evidently tried to set an alarm, but used the wrong application, yet had no memory of doing so.

    I was, however, pissed out of my skull that night, so maybe there's a simple explanation after all.

    Mine's the dressing gown, thanks.

  36. fluffy

    Sleep-based behavior can be wacky

    I had a friend in college who was an avid MUDder. He decided to give it up when one morning he awoke to find that his computer was on, and when he connected to his favorite MUD he had a bunch of messages from people complimenting him on his excellent gaming the previous night (which he had no memory of).

  37. Kanhef

    Meds effect

    Some sleep drugs such as Ambien are known to cause short-term memory loss. Normally this isn't a problem, since you're asleep for the 6-8 hours affected. However, there are cases where people wake up and consciously perform tasks which they cannot remember later. As this person has "severe insomnia", it's quite possible the drug isn't completely effective. Also note that this occurred right after increasing the dosage, which is when side-effects usually manifest themselves. So it's probably not "sleep-emailing", just conscious behavior forgotten due to drug effects (possibly with somewhat altered state of mind, also because of the drug).

  38. J


    "Yes, she went on the interview, but no, she didn't get the job."

    She probably had to be asleep during the interview too, in order to perform as well as before.

    "I was able to do all the things that the dentist wanted (open mouth, sit up and do xxx)"

    You did xxx on the dentist's chair? And was it filmed?

  39. J

    Seriously now...

    Kinda. The sooner people realize we are glorified organic "robots" who kid themselves to think we have much if any control, the better.

  40. Nebulo
    Thumb Down

    Oh, lor' ...

    I use this stuff to put *me* on standby overnight. At least, that's what I *thought* it was doing.


    If any (unusually) incoherent posts from Nebulo start appearing during the wee small hours UK time, please, El Reg, send me an email at once, so I get to find out before I do too much (more) damage to my reputation.

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