Jess – Britain’s Youngest Sleep Walker Review: A Living Nightmare

November 26, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews


There are a number of myths about sleepwalking: that it’s dangerous to wake someone who’s wandering around in their jimjams lest they die in their sleep or that’s it’s impossible to be injured while sleepwalking.

The only thing likely to make me die in my sleep is the embarrassment of someone finding me talking to the bookcase (true story).

What we do in our sleep is still a bit of a mystery and given the recent case of Brian Thomas, the man who strangled his wife in his sleep, it’s a subject that has been thrust back into the media spotlight.

Jess is no somnambulant killer however; she’s a three year old girl who acts as if she’s awake in the middle of the night, convincingly playing with friends as if they were right in the room. The footage really has to be seen to be believed; it’s not just the occasional word or movement, Jess performs entire routines– you could almost draw in the imaginary people she’s playing with. And unfortunately for her parents, it doesn’t last half an hour, but up to six hours a night, every night.

During the day Jess is a bright little girl; intelligent and inquisitive and extremely cute, something that the programme is keen to play up right from the start, “Mummy, I need my bunny wabbit bwushed? she says.

It’s also clear that they want to make the seriousness of the situation even more sinister, “But as darkness falls, something extraordinary happens? intones the narrator. As darkness falls? As darkness falls?! What is this, a 19th century gothic novel? The Exorcist? She’s a three year old child, not a werewolf. This, coupled with the echo that the filmmakers have added to some of Jess’s night time moaning is a little bit tasteless; it’s supposed to be about a medical condition, not the demonisation of a three year old girl.

All this night activity is taking its toll on Jess’s parents, who are constantly woken by their daughter’s bedtime antics. You can’t help but pity them – they can’t get angry with her because she has no idea that she’s doing it and with dozens of medical experts left baffled by their child’s condition, they’re at their wit’s end.

Eventually they’re referred to a specialist children’s hospital where Jess can be analysed and observed. Fortunately, they find out what’s wrong with her – she has an extremely rare condition called Eidetic Imagery which makes her actually see what she’s dreaming and she’s technically awake if unresponsive to anyone while she’s in that state.

It’s a very personal story, so while Jess’s condition is interesting, there’s not much to say other than, “There’s this three year old girl who plays in her sleep and now they’re beginning to fix that?. There’s a rather tenuous suggestion that all of our children are at risk because of the distractions of the modern world which leads to many kids not sleeping enough, but Jess’s condition is practically unique and wasn’t caused by that, so it’s difficult to see how that’s actually relevant.

Still, it could be worse. Whatever you do, don’t go sleepwalking near the zoo

Jez Sands

MJ says:

Thanks Jez for the pain saving review!
Only 15 mins into this and got angry the way they drag the programme out….oh… so… slowly, now ive googled Eidetic Imagery and got more information in 1 min than the silly snails at Cuttin Edge. Stringing a 30 min prog into an hour. tut tut.