Sleeping Your Way Into Trouble

I have gotten into trouble for doing lots of stupid things in my life. Much to the chagrin of my biographer, I have no one to blame but myself. I was awake and, reasonably, in control of my senses. When I was busted having sex on top of a cop car, I was lucid. Horny? As a bunny in April. But still lucid. When I decided to hop a freight to Minnesota to see a girl? Sorry, still lucid. When I realized I’d hopped the wrong one and was on my way to St. Louis? Irked beyond belief, but still lucid. When I decided to get my first tattoo from a strange biker I’d met at a party? Okay, I was a little out of it, but still coherent enough to know right from wrong. Long story short I may not have always made a good decision but at least I made one. The results are simply the results. But what about those people who, for one reason or another have decisions made for them while they’re asleep?

Like Joshua Shelton who killed 70,000 chickens while snoozing.

No, I am not making this up.

A man wandering around a Delmar, Md., poultry farm in a drunken stupor turned off the power to three chicken houses, causing the deaths of nearly 70,000 chickens, sheriff’s officials said.

The property owner who made the grisly discovery found the man, identified as Joshua D. Shelton, 21, of Delmar, Md., passed out on the floor of the power control shed, wearing only a T-shirt and boxer shorts.

“This subject was also lying in a pool of his own urine. A strong odor of alcohol was also coming from the subject,” Wicomico County sheriff’s Lt. Tim Robinson said in a press release.

“Shelton advised the last thing he remembered was being on the property after a nearby concert but did not know how he ended up in the shed. The deputy surmised that in his intoxicated state, Shelton turned off the circuit breakers that controlled the electricity to the chicken houses,” Robinson said.

Shelton was arrested and booked into jail on charges of second-degree burglary, trespass and malicious destruction of property.

The property owner discovered the dead chickens Saturday morning. He told investigators that without power, the chickens will begin to die within 15 minutes. The birds, which were due to be delivered to a local processing plant the following day, were valued at $20,000.
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Allen Farms, which was going to process the birds, estimated its loss at $220,000, said sheriff’s Chief Deputy Gary Baker.

Shelton had been at the owner’s property the previous evening with a group of people that included the owner’s daughter, Baker said.

“The daughter thought he left, but instead he wandered into the shed where all the power controls and breakers were and turned it off,” Baker told NBC News on Tuesday.

“Quite frankly, he was probably in a condition where he really didn’t know what he was doing,” Baker said.

“The theory is that he may have been in there looking for a light switch,” Robinson told

Baker said he’s heard of flocks of chickens dying due to natural occurrences such as drought and heat waves, “but never anything like this manmade that we can remember.”

Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., a local trade group, said he was surprised by news of the poultry caper.

“I have never heard of a drunkard going in and killing chickens,” he told “This is a new one on me, and it’s unfortunate that it occurred.”

You know when you wake up in a pool of your own urine surrounded by cops and dead chickens you have a story that will survive your pitiful lifespan. Unless you’ve been paying attention here.

Of course not every sleeping person causes death and destruction. Some just end up naked and wet on a beach.

You may have heard about the 31-year-old Idaho woman who last week woke up after “sleep swimming” in the Snake River. She was found, suffering from hypothermia, along the shore. It was the second time she’d done it this summer.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Sure, we’ve all heard of bizarre cases of “sleep driving” and “sleep eating” and even “sleep sex,” but sleep swimming? In a cold river? (I’ve been in the Snake River in Idaho, and I can tell you, it’s cold.) Surely, even if you could walk to the river in your sleep, that first splash of icy water would wake you.

Not necessarily.

The problem with that popular notion, explained Dr. Mark Mahowald, visiting professor at Stanford University’s parasomnia clinic (parasomnia refers to sleep disorders involving behavior), is that “sleep” doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing affair.

Parts of your brain can be “asleep” while other parts are “awake.” Brain regions, mainly the frontal cortex, responsible for self-control, reasoning and laying down memories can be happily snoozing while parts of the deep brain, like the stem, can be “awake.”

Because deep brain regions have been equipped with what Mahowald calls “central pattern generators,” patterns of physical acts, something like one of those dance steps instructors lay down on a floor, “you can have somebody who is sleepwalking, and be capable of performing extremely complex behaviors.”

He likens it to a chicken that goes under the hatchet and then starts running around, headless, through the barnyard. The chicken doesn’t have any brain at all, and yet, because its spinal cord has complex pattern generators in it, the chicken runs.

“In humans,” he explained, “there is good evidence that complex behaviors like running, screaming, shouting, sex acts, are all pre-packaged central pattern generators,” either learned or instinctive, that are let loose while the rational brain is sleeping.

You’d have to know how to swim in order to swim in your sleep, of course — you can’t just start playing Chopin in your sleep if you don’t already know how — but this explains why people can drive, sometimes long distances, and not recall ever doing it.

People have actually committed murder while sleeping, as documented on a website run by Mahowald and colleagues.

The cold water of a river wouldn’t necessarily wake the sleeper because sleep is like being in a state of anesthesia. We tend not to feel pain or discomfort while sleeping, only after the event is over.

“We had a case in Minnesota where a guy sleep walked outside, at 20 below zero, and sustained incredible frostbite on his feet,” Mahowald recalled. “He wasn’t aware until he woke up and saw the blisters.”

The causes of sleep walking vary, but may have a genetic component, explained Dr. Steven Poceta, a neurologist affiliated with the Scripps Clinic Sleep Center in San Diego who has documented cases of sleep eating, driving, and cooking among other behaviors.

While science hasn’t figured out why many children sleep walk, but outgrow it, it does appear that the habit can return during times of stress. “That’s a very common scenario,” Poceta said.

Sleep deprivation caused by apnea, or restless leg syndrome, can lead to sleepwalking. So can drugs like zolpidem (Ambien), which became infamous for leading to sleep eating. As for how often that happens, Poceta said, “we think it is more common than is fully appreciated.”

I knew a young lady, back when it legally and morally acceptable for me to do so, who was wildly sexual when asleep but, when awake, was a prude. I didn’t know, the first ten or so times, that she was sound asleep until one morning I asked where she’d learned a certain trick and she nearly fainted from embarrassment. She had no memory of the event but realized it explained certain things.

She sought medical help and cut me off.

Oh well, que sera sera.

But this next story seems a touch extreme. I’ve heard of “kiss the girl and make her cry” but not “kiss the sleeping girl and sign a lifetime commitment contract in front of a kazillion witnesses.”

A fairy-tale-inspired art exhibit gives men who consider themselves regular Prince Charmings a chance to kiss real-life sleeping beauties — that is, if they’re ready for a lifelong commitment.

Yes, there’s a catch for both the beauties and Charmings that participate in Taras Polataiko’s live art installation at the National Art Museum of Ukraine. The women — the main stars of Polataiko’s effort — are put on display as they “sleep” for three days. The men are then allowed to steal a kiss from one of the snoozers. But before the slumber and kisses, there’s an all-important contract.

“Everybody, any viewer, will have to sign the contract, which says, ‘If’ — this is very important, because nobody has to — ‘If I kiss the beauty and she opens her eyes while being kissed, I marry her,'” Polataiko recently told The Telegraph.

Likewise, according to a press release for the exhibit, the beauties sign a form that states, “If I open my eyes while being kissed, I agree to marry the kisser.”

While Polataiko originally feared that no viewer-suitors would participate, there’s been no shortage so far. And some brave would-be princes have even risked a wake-up with a smooch.

“I wanted to feel that girl,” one kisser told The Telegraph. “I wanted to feel her with my heart, but I didn’t feel anything.”

As for the woman he kissed, she’s confident the art effort doubles as an earnest search for love.

“If it’s my true love, I will feel it on an intuitive level,” she explained to the paper. “Secondly, if I don’t feel it, I won’t open my eyes. Anything can happen in life, and suddenly it’s fate. What if it’s the only way I’ll meet my soul mate?”

But now she may be asking herself, “What if it’s not?”

“The show will end the moment the Beauty opens her eyes,” teased the press release. But that hasn’t happened for any of the beauties yet, so the show goes on — at least until its scheduled end on Sept. 9.

Women dig that fantasy crap. White horse, knight in shining armor and so on just lead them to think that 50 Shades of Grey could happen to them. Pretentious British spelling and all.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a little spice here and there. But there needs to be some balance. At some point you have a life to lead. And, be honest, do you really want to live it as a submissive princess living out your days selling bicycles?

Best Bike Rental (Director’s version) . from Stason bros. on Vimeo.

Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG (FOX! Sports) every Friday around 9:10 AM.

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