A change in surroundings caused by being on holiday could have led a Sheffield woman to sleepwalk out of a hotel window and plunge 50ft, according to a South Yorkshire sleep expert.
Amy Wigfull, aged 24, was on a girls’ holiday to Benalmadena in Spain celebrating her mum’s 40th birthday when disaster struck.
The shoe shop worker, originally from Wincobank, broke her back and suffered bleeding on the brain after plummeting from a low window in her hotel bathroom.
Sleep practitioner James Wilson runs Rotherham firm We Love Sleep, which helps people get a better night’s rest.
He said sleepwalking was a ‘disruption in the sleep cycle’ triggered by factors ranging from a bedroom being too hot to stress in a person’s waking hours. It runs in families and is more common in children.
“It can happen overseas because it’s very hot compared to the temperatures here,” said James.
“Sleepwalking is more likely to happen early in the night - it wouldn’t happen in deep sleep - and it’s not connected to dreaming.”
He added that a sleepwalker is capable of exploits they would never consider attempting in daytime.
“People will do things like jump out of a top floor window and manage to get down to the ground by climbing down. When sleepwalking you’re as mobile as you can be.”
James agreed with Spanish medics who told Amy’s family the fact she was asleep saved her life.
“You don’t tense your body when you hit the ground,” he said.
Beta-blocker tablets can be prescribed, alongside measures such as creating a comfortable sleeping environment. Attaching bells to sleepwalking children helps tackle the problem - but locking doors isn’t advised.
“That can stress out sleepwalkers - they can bang into things,” said James.
“We do suggest putting an alarm on their door. You know they’re coming and going and can gently try to coax them back to bed.”