Let’s talk for a moment about childhood. Do you remember yours? Perhaps you remember bits and pieces – or maybe you can’t remember much at all. One thing is guaranteed though: the events of your childhood most definitely contributed largely to the person you are today. This is because the younger you are, the more vulnerable your brain is to the outside world – for better or worse. For three-year-old Jessica from the UK, the events of her childhood are happening right now – and they are mind-boggling.
Jessica has trouble sleeping at night. Okay, let’s be a little bit more accurate. She does not sleep at night. That on its own is enough to raise a ton of eyebrows, but what she does as an alternative to sleep is enough to take the whole cake. Jessica has a curious condition that baffled every doctor she was taken to for the first two and a half years of her life. One professional who studied her case stated, “This is the first time I’ve come across a child doing this. That’s after about 13 years looking at sleep studies.”
A youtube clip was made with the purpose of notifying the public about Jessica’s condition. In this video, clips of nighttime life around the house were compiled together in a mash up so the viewer can better understand her condition. These clips were provided by her parents, and they are quite extraordinary to watch. In the clips, we peer through a hazy blacklight into Jessica’s parents’ room, which is where she sleeps.
To the lonely observer with no frame of reference, what she is doing can perhaps be perceived as quite strange. For instance, she can be seen driving a make-believe car, drinking from a make-believe cup, speaking to people that aren’t physically there, and sometimes doing things that are literally incomprehensible. Interestingly enough, she seems to be enjoying herself while doing this! She is seen to be smiling and laughing the whole time.
It may not be easy for the average observer to understand what Jessica is doing in these moments, when she should be sleeping like any normal girl her age. Upon careful observation, though, and after receiving new results from doctors at a high end institution called Evelina Children’s Hospital, we are handed new information that helps us understand her condition better. Armed with this new knowledge, Jessica’s parents are confident that they will find the ultimate solution for her to thrive in the future.
A curious case
Every family is different, and some families have more hurdles than others. The parents of Jessica, a three-year-old who lives in the United Kingdom, must work extra hard day in and day out in order to take care of their daughter. Jessica’s case is not only hard to cope with because of the workload, but what’s even harder on her parents is the fact that they don’t know what exactly it is. Her case is a curious one, and they are still trying to understand it better.
No one knows
Jessica suffers from a sleep disorder that is unknown to most. The remote few who supposedly “know” about it, are also perplexed by the condition and are constantly making new discoveries about it. What is perhaps most interesting about her condition is that while it may be tough to understand – and while it may be hard for people around her to deal with – Jessica seems to be enjoying herself. But you wouldn’t have to ask her – just see for yourself.
On the surface, the easiest way to describe her disorder is that she cannot sleep at night. But that would not be a good description. It wouldn’t even begin to cover the subtle ins and outs of what makes her situation particularly unique. The fact is, Jessica has a condition that has not been fully researched enough; as such, while doctors have a name for it, they are still not a hundred percent sure how to cure it.
Instead of chalking up Jessica’s condition to a glib headline, let’s instead try to empathize with what she goes through every night – and perhaps then we can understand it better. Let us take a trip into the lives of this family, who are by no means an ordinary family. Let us remain open as we observe the curious case of Jessica, because there is no doubt about it – disorder or not – she is an extraordinary child.
If you were to spend a night in the home of Jessica’s family, and carefully observe her behavior, you would be very amazed at what you would see. In fact, Jessica’s parents have given permission for the world to take a peek into their night to night lives. In a Youtube video montage released to the public, we are able to actually see what she goes through every night. It is very interesting to watch.
Opposite the norm
A handful of videos of their family’s nightlife have been mashed together to provide the public with an insight into their lives at night. This is what you would see: when the night begins, instead of this sweet innocent child closing her eyes and falling asleep, she does the opposite. What exactly is the “opposite,” might you ask? The answer is that instead of falling asleep, she becomes more animated than she was before – she comes to life.
What you would see
If you were to watch these videos that were put together in this Youtube clip, you would witness Jessica doing the following: She he seen shaking her head in glee, pointing out into the distance and smiling, crawling around, and taking long swigs out of an imaginary cup. She is also seen dancing joyfully, clapping her hands in sheer excitement, and pretending she is in a car – while turning the wheel and honking the horn.
The one thing that is nice to observe while she does all these things is that she seems to be having the time of her life. A very high percentage of the clips that are shown display her smiling widely. There is in fact a very good amount of laughing going on, and so while anyone can come to whatever conclusions they may about this phenomenon, many people – including her parents – are at least consoled on some level that their daughter seems to be happy.
A positive take
It’s one thing when you have a child with a disability, and it affects their spirits negatively. But in this scenario, whatever anyone may say about the consequences, it seems to have a good impact on Jessica spiritually. Obviously there are higher stakes involved, but when you’re a loving parent, and all you want is for your child to be healthy and happy – even if your child has some sort of condition, it’s natural for them to feel relieved that it doesn’t seem to be affecting her emotionally.
Not quite alone
With this giddy attitude underway, Jessica continues to horse around, engaging in all types of imaginary activities. Even more interesting is the fact that while an average observer would only see her having fun, this doesn’t seem to be the case in her head. Indeed, as Jessica drives in her imaginary car or plays with her imaginary toys, she doesn’t seem to think that she’s alone. She seems to be having fun with a large group of friends, unbeknownst to anyone but herself.
The activities that she is engaging in with her friends are clear some of the time. As stated before, a lot of the time we know what she’s doing. Or at least, we are able to reference movements that she is making and compare it to activities that we all do in our daily lives (such as riding cars, dancing, and drinking out of a cup). But that is not always the case in Jessica’s secret nightlife. There are times where we have no idea what she’s doing.
Not so relatable
Let’s look at little closer and try to explain it as best as possible. In the clips that were provided by Jessica’s parents, there are little snippets of moments that are hard to describe. Certainly not in writing. Sometimes she is simply talking, and joking around, but this can be attributed to the imaginary friends that she is having fun with. Other times, she can be seen making strange hand gestures, and arm movements that aren’t recognizable.
Just like any other kid
But here is the kicker. These strange things she does may not really be that strange at all. And if they are, they are very normal for any young girl of her age. That is to say, if you were to come across any local playground with young children, you would most likely see them doing some weird stuff. That is the beauty of children. Their minds are so free, their brains are still evolving, and they are always exploring.
The beauty of children
This is the nature of children. With their budding minds, there is a feel of adventure within their disposition, and it comes out strongly in the way they act. It may seem at times, but isn’t that what we love so much about children? Their blatant silliness, with no regard for anyone who might possibly make them feel dumb or out of place. This is not strange or abnormal. This is the natural development of a human child.
Now let us go back to Jessica. Her actions at night, her lack of sleep, replaced instead by nighttime excursions in her subconscious world, are all contributions that make her different – that is true without question. However, the acts she engages in during her nighttime adventures shouldn’t be viewed as strange. The context may be unusual – but not the acts themselves. Which brings us to our next point. Jessica is doing what she does during the day – she is simply doing it at night.
Just another day
This is one of the most interesting things about Jessica’s case. According to her parents, during the day Jessica is just like any normal child. She wakes up every day (or is simply “awake” already), and goes to school. She plays with her friends, engages in normal children activities, and eventually comes home. She is a very bright and lovable child, and her parents absolutely adore her. During the day, she acts like she has no condition – no secret life at night.
Ask me, and I shall respond
Taking it a step further, it’s only when comparing her actions during the day and her behavior at night that things get really interesting. Apparently, when she is spoken to during the day, she responds to the individual, and she is very present during the interaction. This goes hand in hand with what we said about her being like any other child. But if you were to ask her a question at night – the result is quite different.
But not at night
This is just another quirk about what makes Jessica’s case so peculiar. We already know that she engages in her own imaginary world, and we know that within this imaginary world her actions are very much like any typical child. That is to say, eccentric and adventurous. But a crucial difference is that if you were to ask Jessica a question at night – you would receive no acknowledgement – let alone a reply.
The doctors don’t know
This is where the doctors come in. Initially, when it became clear Jessica had a condition, her parents naturally tried to get help. They went to many doctors, tried many medications to help Jessica with her sleeping, along with recommended exercises. For over two years, not one of them helped. A medical professional even states in the previously mentioned video, “This is the first time I’ve come across a child doing this. That’s after about 13 years looking at sleep studies.”
These doctors do know
After many failed attempts at getting proper help for Jessica, her parents took her to a special facility. The facility was called Evelina Children’s Hospital, reportedly the number one sleep clinic for children in the United Kingdom. After many tests were ran, they began to discover some very interesting data. Finally, it looked like Jessica’s parents were about to get some answers! While there would still be much left to discover, what they found out was a great start.
Finally some answers
The monitoring of Jessica’s sleep by Evelina Children’s Hospital yielded very interesting results. What they discovered would answer why Jessica is very much a normal kid during the day, but a superhero by night. Their discoveries would answer why she responds to individuals by day, but not by night. And finally, what they found would offer a very solid hypothesis as to why Jessica seems to be fully engaged in “normal child behavior” at night, albeit within the realms of her own imaginary world.
According to Evelina Children’s Hospital, Jessica has a unique condition called Eidetic Imagery. What this means is that at night, she has the ability to recall memories from her past, and play them out in her head with a great deal of clarity and precision. This is no mere ability to remember events in one’s head, like most humans possess. When Jessica brings memories to the forefront of her mind, she can literally create her own three-dimensional world.
Knowledge is key
Let’s investigate this a bit further. As we’ve already discussed, the world of child brain development is a mysterious one, and one that is very open, exploratory, and susceptible to change. Due to the fact that Jessica is a three-year-old girl, we know that the development of her mind is at a very critical stage. Therefore, it’s important for us to understand as much as we can about her condition – so we can know how to treat it as best as possible.
A 3D world
According to the professionals, Jessica has a three-dimensional memory. This however, is a very vague description of what she has – Eidetic Imagery. To give a bit more insight from outside research, Psychologist Donald Hebb says that an Eidetic Image is “an exceptionally vivid memory image that occurs immediately after the perception.” In other words, anyone who has this ability can conjure very strong images of any memory they may have, with much potency in brightness and clarity.
Let’s be cautious
Okay, so that’s Eidetic Imagery. But there are more questions to be asked. For instance, how much control does the owner of the condition have to “turn on” or “turn off” these experiences? This question in particular is very important when we consider Jessica’s case, because if we know she can control it, then it may be a lot easier to help her. This brings us to our next point, which is that the doctors feel that while she may be enjoying herself, they could ultimately be harmful for her.
This is where it gets tricky. Because if Jessica is in control of her night time fantasies, then that means she is choosing to engage in it every night. Upon observing her, the reason is clear. She is simply having so much, she can’t help herself. While this can be comforting in some ways, the doctors are saying that “too much fun” can lead to insomnia. Yes, she is having a great time – but all the while, she isn’t sleeping – and that can be harmful for brain development.
In the aforementioned youtube clip, Tanya, Jessica’s mother, asks a doctor if he thinks that she is aware of what she’s doing. His response may surprise you. He claims that she is very aware of everything she is doing. He says that not only is she aware of everything she’s doing, but she’s aware of her actual physical surroundings. Considering that Jessica does not respond to her parents during these extravagant adventures, the idea that she may be simultaneously aware of their presence is very interesting.
Place of comfort
Based on the knowledge of her possible awareness to what she’s doing, it should be noted that all of her adventures are actually taking place while she is physically in her parents bed. The doctors are claiming that she is aware of that, and that it’s possible the comfort of her parents bed allows Jessica to be more relaxed. It’s further suggested that because she is in a place of comfort, it may contribute to her daringness to explore every night.
Let’s just try it
This is significant, because perhaps a change in her bed placement may result in a change in her behavior – perhaps if she was in her own bed, it would take her out of her comfort zone, and possibly influence her nighttime rituals. The revelation that she is self-aware has made her mother, Tanya, more comfortable with this potential arrangement. Her rationale is that if Jessica is self-aware, she won’t harm herself – even if she’s by herself.
The right balance
Everything in life takes time, and finding the perfect solution for Jessica is no different. She is scheduled to have further meetings with the doctor, and her parents are confident that there will be more positive progress. In this curious case, a delicate, balanced approach might be in order. Taking strong steps to make sure Jessica starts sleeping at night is crucial, but just as important will be making sure that she doesn’t lose her bright, wonderful spirit in the process.