Watching a movie or TV show can be a great way to fall asleep, but we shouldn’t take a show or film’s observations on sleep too seriously. The advice on sleeping and interpretations of sleep disorders are often based on a screenwriters’ misunderstanding of biology or their need to write their way out of a plot contrivance corner. The results are sometimes silly and othertimes quite dangerous. Here are eight ways movies and TV go wrong when it comes to rest.
1. Never Wake a Sleepwalker
No matter what Harriet from “Family Matters” says to the contrary, it’s fine to wake a sleepwalker, especially if they are as annoying as Steve Urkel. You won’t hurt a someone wandering in their sleep by waking them and it's probably best to get them back to bed: Letting somnambulant strollers go unchecked could lead to destruction, as Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly hilariously illustrate in Stepbrothers. Pro tip: They might get startled and accidentally hurt you, so yell at them instead of shaking them.
2. Narcoleptics Sometimes Pass out Mid-Sentence
If you have narcolepsy, your least favorite movie is almost certainly Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. Not just because it’s terrible, but because of the scene where Rob Schneider’s male prostitute takes a narcoleptic woman bowling. She not only falls asleep in mid-sentence but in mid bowling swing. Lack of hilarity ensues. Narcolepsy advocates decry this depiction as well as the one that appeared in Rat Race for insensitivity and inaccuracy. Living with a disruptive, incurable chronic sleep disorder is bad enough. Having strangers compare your ordeal to a Rob Schneider movie is enough to make you pass out from rage.
3. When Knocked Out, You'll Simply Drift Off
In movie logic, when you wallop someone the head with a blunt object, they fall into a long peaceful slumber and wake with a slight headache. The head trauma may even lead to comedic hijinks, especially in cases where the blunt object is a coconut. Nobody’s skull gets cracked, no brains are permanently damaged and no concussions occur as they would in real life. And about those hilarious falling coconuts: the fruit can fall with the force of a metric ton and cause debilitating injuries and death.
4. Memories Can “Reset” Overnight
Saturday Night Live alums love the concept of waking up each day with massive memory loss. Dana Carvey played a detective who awoke every day with complete amnesia in the ’90s farce Clean Slate. In 50 First Dates Adam Sandler wooed a woman who wakes up everyday remembering only events prior to the car accident that destroyed her memory. It’s not only a weird premise to mine comedy from; it’s medically impossible. There’s never been a case of amnesia where memory occurs during sleep — sleep almost always improves memories. Anyway, we don’t know what Lorne Michaels did, exactly, but SNL stars clearly wish they could forget something.
5. Waking up Without Bedhead
While real life #hardeight results in stuck-your-finger-in-a-socket hair, nearly every in-bed rom-com tryst ends with the couple waking up, perfectly puzzle-pieced together and with excellently coiffed locks. (It’s almost like they have hair and makeup crews waiting just off-camera). Funny enough, one of the most realistic portrayals of bedhead comes in a cartoon that features a princess with magic ice powers and a talking snowman. Nonetheless, Frozen is the rare film to properly display the damage a pillow does to a sleeper’s hair. Otherwise, movie and TV stars rise, stretch and yawn perfectly coiffed, as if their hairdresser tended to them overnight.
6. People With Concussions Shouldn’t Sleep
On Arrested Development, Tobias Funke suffers head trauma after his mother-in-law blasts an air horn in his ears while he was covered in blue body paint. Surprisingly, the least realistic detail is his warning that it’s dangerous to sleep after head injury. Keeping someone awake after a concussion actually harms them, as they need to sleep to heal. Before the proliferation of CT Scans, doctors needed to keep concussed people awake to monitor for brain bleeding, which is incredibly rare. There are CT scans everywhere now, so go to sleep Tobias, you blowhard.
7. Insomnia Makes you Crazy
Roughly 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia. And while extremely severe cases of sleep deprivation can suffer from psychosis, it’s actually quite rare. But if we take the screen’s word for it, we’d constantly be fearing for our lives from these sleep-deprived monsters. Just look at The Machinist, Fight Club and, not coincidentally, Insomnia, where the sleep disorder is linked to some seriously violent acts. Insomnia is certainly not pleasant, but we have nothing to fear from insomniacs, who in all likelihood would be just too tired to pose a real threat.
8. A Warm Glass of Milk Helps you Sleep
Ben stiller may be sadistic when he counters an old lady’s request for a warm glass of milk with an offer of a “warm glass of shut the hell up” in Happy Gilmore. Still, technically, he’s right. Warm milk isn’t the powerful sleep aid it’s touted to be. While milk has small amounts of serotonin creating chemical tryptophan, it isn’t enough to get you to sleep.