A four-year-old girl has been diagnosed with a bizarre sleep disorder that means she’s awake most of the night. Although Jess Tinsley has a structured bedtime routine and falls asleep after a bedtime story at 7.15pm, by midnight, she’s awake again and doesn’t go back to sleep for the rest of the night.
After two years keeping her parents, Tanya, 25, and Chris, 24, up almost every night, Jess has been diagnosed as one of Britain’s youngest insomniacs.
“There have been times when she has slept for an hour or two and once she was awake for 36 hours,” Tanya told the Daily Mail. “Ironically, Jess was a really good baby and slept through the night from 6 months. But when she was about a year old, she started waking up and making funny little actions as if she was pretending to eat or drink, or laughing and playing with imaginary friends. She didn’t cry, it was as if she just didn’t need any sleep anymore.”
After two years and one night spent in a sleep clinic, doctors have finally found the answer. Tests revealed that she wakes up to act out her dreams, which are almost exact versions of what she’s don during the day.
Jess’s ability to conjure up accurate mental images is known as an eidetic memory, something that generally only affects children, as they usually grow out of it.
“Older children who do this describe it as seeming like they are part of a TV programme or a play,” says Dr Paul Gringas, a sleep expert from the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London, where Jess was assessed. “While it can look strange to others, it is relaxing to Jess. She will be aware of what she’s doing, but will be in her own little world while she’s doing it.”
The disturbed nights have taken their toll on the family and Jess’s parents have now started taking Jess back to bed, rather than letting her play-act in their room, so they, at least, can get some sleep. Jess continues to have annual hospital check-ups.
If your child’s keeping you up at night, check out our guide to toddler sleeping.