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Emailing while Sleep: An official disorder


Toledo (OH) - We've all heard of sleep walking or even sleep driving, and cases of narcolepsy are also well known as nodders sift through their day in most unenviable ways. However, what about sleep emailing? An upcoming article in the Sleep Medicine journal will cite details of a sleepwalking state which shows how individuals can send emails in their sleep, even using higher functions for passwords and procedures.

One challenge facing proponents of the idea that higher motor functions can be employed while sleepwalking is that it involves more than just "gross motor movements." However, emails used in the study often contain gibberish or incorrect or inconsistent writing forms when compared with those of the individual's waking state. This indicates the higher functions are not operating perfectly, but are merely being tapped to some degree.

For example, one message sent by a female included the subject "!HELP ME P-LEEEEESE," with unusual spelling, punctuation and spacing. Another from the same individual contained an invitation for dinner and drinks sent out while asleep, along with the content also including "come TOMORROW AND SORT THIS HELL HOLE Out!!!!!!" Such telltale aberrant signs are visible in the writing form.

When questioned by the recipient about why she sent the emails, the female had no recollection of having ever sent them and yet they were in her Sent Items folder. This so distressed the female that she went to a sleep clinic where, as a patient, she told doctors she was deeply concerned about what other possibly regrettable things she might've done, or is capable of doing, while sleepwalking.

The study revealed that this particular patient had extreme somnambulant abilities. While staying at a relative's house one time, she was able to start a computer, enter a username and password to log on to the operating system, launch the web browser, access her email website, type in her username and password and then compose and send emails. These are relatively complex tasks that were carried out in this sleepwalking state.

Dr. Fouzia Siddiqui of the University of Toledo Medical Center, who worked with the female patient, differentiates her nocturnal activities from other types of emails sent in the night which, during the harsh light of day, might be otherwise undesirable - such as romantic requests of your companion. Dr. Sidiqui said, "The case shows there are other things patients can do while sleepwalking."

Google's Gmail marketing manager, Arielle Reinstein, had already conceived of a possible aid which may help sleep emailers from sending otherwise embarrassing emails. It's called Mail Goggles, which is named for the concept of having an extra protective set of lenses operating while emailing.

Her original idea was designed to prevent drunken email sending, however it would operate similarly for sleepwalking emails. The user is asked to take a second and detach themselves from what they're doing and ask "Do I really want to send this?"

While this may not be a real solution for someone in a sleepwalking state (because they may have enough cognitive function to simply click "Yes" and be done with it), the reality is that an actual sleep emailing syndrome is becoming a reality - as it has been for the female patient for quite some time.

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