Colo. Man, Sanford Rothman, Shoots Self in Sleep

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A Colorado man had a clear wakeup call early Tuesday morning. It wasn't an alarm. It was a gunshot.

After the blast, 63-year-old Sanford Rothman found that he had shot himself in the knee while sleepwalking. According to The Boulder Daily Camera Rothman told investigators he did not clearly remember the event.

Rothman was taken to the hospital, treated, and released.

Calls to Rothman were not immediately returned, but no illegal activity is said to have been involved in the incident -- a sign that Rothman might simply suffer from what is known among sleep experts as a parasomnia.

Parasomnias are disorders that interrupt sleep and often involve disruptive behaviors. Most of these conditions are fairly rare, but when they occur they can be startling to sufferers and their families. Worse, some people with parasomnias may even inadvertently place themselves or their loved ones in dangerous situations.

Sleep experts say these sleeping disorders can range from mild to severe. The next few pages feature a closer look at some of these disorders.

Sleepwalking

Ellen Vincenti went through a two-and-a-half day stretch she will never forget. She spent that time stuck in a remote swamp in the woods about 15 miles from her home in Tuftonboro, New Hampshire.

"I managed to get up on a tiny piece of land, but the water was waist-deep around me," said Vincenti.

What was worse was the fact that she has no idea how she got there.

"Saturday night, I kissed my husband goodnight. I took the new medication I was on, and said I was going to read until I'm tired. The next thing I knew, it was 5:30 Sunday morning and I was in my car in the middle of the woods," said Vincenti.

Vincenti said she was disoriented at that point, and walked in the direction of the traffic she heard. After that, she said she found herself waist-deep in water.

"I spent Sunday screaming for help, but no help came," she said. She kept on screaming, and help finally came on Tuesday after a woman living nearby heard her.

Vincenti was shaken by the incident but otherwise uninjured. She said her doctor told her the medication she was taking, which she did not name, was the likely trigger of her nighttime excursion. She also said she has a history of sleepwalking and sleep-talking.

The fact that Vincenti somehow got in her car and ended up getting stuck in the woods is uncharacteristic of most sleepwalkers, though experts say it can happen.

"An extreme case is the individual who actually gets out of the house," said Dr. Helene Emsellem, director of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, Md.

"In general, the furthest they go is the next room," said Joyce Walsleben, associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.

Experts say a number of factors can contribute to sleepwalking, including certain medications, stress and sleep deprivation. It's most common in children between the ages of 8 and 12, and they outgrow it by their early teens.

"It typically happens coming out of deep sleep, so sleepwalkers are half in and half out of arousal," said Walsleben. People who sleepwalk don't remember what they did during an episode. While most don't involve any serious or life-threatening incidents, there have been a number of high-profile cases of crimes that were committed by people who said they were sleepwalking.

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