Are imaginary friends keeping your kids up at night?

19 Apr Are imaginary friends keeping your kids up at night?

Getting children to go to sleep is difficult at the best of times, but it became near impossible for parents of three-year old Jessica Tinsley in the UK. For two years, an array of medical specialists were unable to diagnose Jessica’s strange behaviour during the early hours of the morning. From one till five am, Jessica would be wide awake, laughing, talking and playing, completely unresponsive to her parents… it was like she was in her own world. This was especially worrying for her parents who could not tell if she was dreaming, awake or unaware of anything she was doing. Fearing for Jessica’s safety, this meant many sleepless nights for her parents, with their daughter having to stay in their bed to ensure she was safe during these strange episodes.

After undergoing an overnight sleep-study, the reporting sleep physician was able to ascertain that Jessica was in fact awake during these episodes and the associated odd behaviour was not a dream or an extreme type of sleepwalking. What was keeping Jessica awake all these hours was that she was simply having too much fun. The technical diagnosis was reported as Eidetic Imagery, which is the ability to replay previously seen images and scenarios in your head as if it were right in front of you. In Jessica’s case, her ability was quite developed which meant staying awake and interacting with these generated scenarios, even conjuring imaginary friends.

For such a rare and complicated case, the treatment was fairly rudimentary. After initiating a bedtime routine where Jessica went to bed at the same time every night and was made to stay in her own bed, after two weeks, the episodes decreased in severity until eventually ceasing altogether. Although this type of disordered sleep is incredibly rare, what we can gather from this case is the importance of implementing a consistent bedtime routine so your child knows that when they hop into bed at night, it is time to fall asleep. Sounds simple, but in Jessica’s case it demonstrates in even the most severe cases, a bedtime routine can be effective.



Hann, Amelia (Producer & Director), 2017. Can’t Sleep Kid [Documentary], United Kingdom, Barcroft TV.