Friday, 11 February 2011
It's All In The Genes
As a child I was a sleepwalker. The most serious incident was when I was discovered trying to get out the back gate and, because my father had placed the dustbin there for collection, the noise of me trying to open the obstructed gate woke him. Even today I can remember waking up sitting on a chair in the living room having my foot bathed because I had trailed blood back into the house. My father explained I must have stepped on something sharp but it was my mother's irritation at having to clean up the mess which has embedded the incident deep in my mind.
Another occasion I remember waking up sleeping on the cold springs of the bed. Where were the mattress and bedclothes? All rather neatly piled in the middle of the living room floor. My parents couldn't understand how I'd managed to carry them past their bedroom door - but I was never a noisy child.
Many years later I was talking with my father and sleepwalking drifted into the conversation. It an inconvenience to the family because they had had to remember to remove keys from external doors, switch off the cooker (I'd been trying to cook a boiled egg one night) and do their best to make the house safe, he said.
At one point I think I was taken to the doctor who labelled me "highly strung" - a description which upset me. Thankfully no medication was given, although if it was today, I'm sure I would have been bunged full of chemicals. "She thinks too much," was my mother's explanation.
My sleepwalking diminished as I reached my middle teens and stopped completely when I left home.
However, scientists have discovered I didn't think too much. It was all the fault of chromosome 20. Carrying even one copy of the defective DNA is enough to cause sleepwalking they say.
No longer can I be labelled as highly strung or an incessant thinker. I'm only a carrier of a faulty chromosome 20. Or was. Can a faulty chromosome correct itself? Science can be interesting.