Last Night’s TV – Jess: Britain’s Youngest Sleepwalker

by Lynn Connolly


I found this film hugely anticlimactic in that it turned out Jess wasn’t sleepwalking at all. She was actually awake and just really enjoyed playing in her child’s vision of a perfect imaginary world.

Her ‘condition’ was rapidly cured by a more routine and slightly stricter bedtime regime.

The hype – and the picture of Jess, looking decidedly creepy – was purporting that this little girl was something extraordinary. And she is, but not in the way the film’s blurb implied. Though the term Eidetic Imagery was given to her night time play, it means only that she has a vivid imagination.

What made her extraordinary among other children was not this ‘phenomenon’ but the fact that in the bowels of the night, she was quite happy to while away the hours playing peaceably alone and not mithering the bejesus out of her parents.

The initial footage of Jess playing at night was deliberately given an added ethereal feel by the voice over proclaiming that “after dark, something extraordinary happens” or words to that effect. I can’t quite recall them verbatim, but you get the gist. And the gist was designed to make us believe we were about to see something akin to a ghost-child or something.

The truth was far more banal and not remotely esoteric; it was a little girl playing with her imaginary friends.

The footage was dubbed with spooky echoing moans and tried really hard to turn what is – for millions of parents – a regular event; that of a little kid who won’t sleep, into something creepy.

But after a visit to a specialist centre where Jess’s brainwaves were studied over five months, the conclusion was disappointingly simple, and, as I said, just a little girl who likes to play in the night. The resolution was equally simple; put her in her own bed and establish a regular pattern with her at night.

And much to her mother’s delight – and relief after years of exhausting nocturnal wakefulness – the ‘mysterious’ somnambulism that dogged her daughter’s life, and hers by default, was over, just like that.

The term Eidetic Imagery was in some ways I felt just a ‘label’ for the much simpler explanation that Jess was a tiny bit spoiled and, as she’s a very intelligent little girl, played her parents splendidly to ensure she got maximum attention out of them.

I’m not saying she’s some kind of horrid child, far from it – she’s gorgeous and her parents are clearly excellent parents, but in terms of how the film was hyped, it was without doubt a let down. For me anyway.

What did you think of it?

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.