NPR FOR THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t AIR

Comedian Mike Birbiglia was on tour in Washington state when he had a dream that a guided missile was heading toward his hotel room. In his dream — and in real life — Birbiglia decided to jump out the window of his hotel room. He was staying on the second floor. Birbiglia survived, receiving 33 stitches for gashes in his legs. When he returned home to New York, he was sent to a sleep physician for overnight observation. “They put the electrodes all over my body and observed my sleep and I was diagnosed with REM behavior disorder, where people have a dopamine deficiency,” he tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “Dopamine is the chemical that is released from your brain into your body when you fall asleep that paralyzes your body so you don’t act out your dreams. And people who have this [disorder] are typically running away from some type of demon or wild animal — and people who have this, in rare instances, have actually killed people while remaining asleep.” Birbiglia recounts the events leading up to his near-death experience in Washington in his new comedic memoir, Sleepwalk With Me. The book details several painfully embarrassing moments from his childhood, his recovery from bladder cancer in college and his failed dating experiences that led, eventually, to his sleepwalking episodes.

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