William C. Dement, MD, PhD, makes his big-screen debut the new comedy Sleepwalk with Me, which made its premiere at the Sundance Festival this week in Park City, Utah. The film stars stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia, whose REM sleep behavior disorder has been the subject of a book and one-man show. Sleepwalk with Me is being presented in association with WBEZ Public Radio’s This American Life, where Birbiglia was a semi-regular contributor. Host Ira Glass is a producer for the movie.
Dr. Dement, sometimes referred to as The Father of Sleep Medicine, has a voice cameo in Sleepwalk with Me narrating an audiotape of his own book as Birbiglia’s character begins falling asleep while driving. In 1975, Dr. Dement launched the American Sleep Disorders Association, now known as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and served as president for the first 12 years.
No word if Sleepwalk with Me has found a national distributor. Birbiglia plays a New York stand-up comedian who contends with girlfriend issues and a sleep disorder. In real life, Birbiglia is diagnosed with REM sleep behavior disorder. He limits the frequency of these episodes by taking clonazepam, and sleeps in a makeshift cocoon – wearing a sleeping bag up to his neck and mittens so he can’t open it and get up. These anecdotes formed the basis for his one-man show and book. Sleepwalk with Me is on bookshelves, while Birbiglia’s performance can be heard on This American Life and the manuscript of an in-depth interview can be found on NPR’s Fresh Air.
View a clip from the film version of “Sleepwalk With Me” depicting a REM sleep behavior disorder episode below: