CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When I was growing up, falling asleep on the couch while watching TV wasn't a wise thing to do, considering I was raised in a family of pranksters. If it happened to be dark outside when I dozed off, they'd not only shut off every light, but unplug them. To further the befuddled effect they were after, they'd sometimes gently lift the couch and turn it completely around, so I'd wake facing the wall.
At least one time I awakened with a thick mustache drawn on my upper lip. It had been done with a dark green permanent marker.
They filled my hand with shaving cream, then tickled my nose. Tried the same sort of prank with an overripe, almost melted-feeling tomato.
One time, I was in my own bed when the alarm awakened me. It felt as if I'd just gone to sleep, so as I headed for the shower, I checked every clock. The one on the VCR, the microwave. All said the same time.
Every single one of them had been changed by the prankster. This, I discovered only after showering and eating breakfast and getting completely ready to go. In the middle of the night.
It should come as no surprise, I suppose, that I have trouble with insomnia. It's a coping device.
My own daughter, who turns 15 next month, has become something of a professional sleeper these days. She sleeps so deeply (and so often) that she would be an easy mark. Aside from a single time when I tried to glue hair to her upper lip to convince her she was growing a mustache, I've generally left her alone.
Just this week, though, I read a news account of a 15-year-old British girl who has what they're calling "Sleeping Beauty Syndrome," where those with the condition sleep extremely long periods of time. This particular girl fell asleep in April, and didn't awaken until June.
The condition, called Kleine-Levin Syndrome, almost exclusively affects teenagers and is something they outgrow once they reach adulthood. The cause is unknown.