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Elvis Presley had a number of problems with his sleep habits, including a time he wandered out of his house in the middle of the night. He admitted to Priscilla Presley that he frequently sleepwalked as a child. He once woke up in embarrassment when he realized he’d walked out the door clad only in his underwear. On another occasion, he almost tumbled out a window.

Elvis Presley once sleepwalked out of his house

When the future Priscilla Presley began a relationship with Elvis, she started keeping late hours. Her late nights, coupled with her school schedule — she was 14 when they began dating — made it difficult for her to stay awake. Elvis offered her Dexedrine, a stimulant, to keep herself going. While she initially declined to take it, this was her introduction to Elvis’ frequent pill use.

“A sergeant had given several men pills to help them stay awake while on guard duty,” Priscilla wrote in her book Elvis and Me. “Elvis, who was accustomed to living the life of an entertainer and who despised rising at dawn, began taking the pills to get him through the long dreary hours of Army life. He told me he’d begun taking the pills shortly before he’d been drafted.”

A black and white picture of Elvis Presley wearing a jacket and combing his hair.
Elvis Presley | Bettmann/Contributor via Getty

Elvis dealt with insomnia and had a lifelong fear of sleepwalking after an incident as a child. 

“He dreaded insomnia and feared sleepwalking, which had plagued him periodically since childhood,” Priscilla wrote. “In fact, as a boy, he’d once sleepwalked straight out of his apartment, dressed only in his underwear. A neighbor woke him, and, embarrassed, he ran back into the house. Another time, he nearly fell out of a window. Consequently, to avoid accidents, he slept with his parents until he was grown, and he feared his sleepwalking habit for the rest of his life.”

He had even hired someone to watch over him while stationed in Germany to prevent any late-night wanderings. 

Priscilla Presley had to make changes in the house to make sure Elvis didn’t hurt himself

Elvis’ sleepwalking and late nights prompted Priscilla to make changes at Graceland when she moved in. He spent hours reading books about spirituality and religion after taking his nightly sleeping pills. 

“We could come home at two o’clock in the morning or later, and he would go right to the books and start reading,” she told The Guardian.

Elvis stacked so many books around the bed that Priscilla hired someone to install pull-out bookcases under it. She worried if she didn’t, Elvis could hurt himself moving around in the dark.

The musician’s sleeping habits began to concern her

Elvis typically woke up in the late afternoon. According to Priscilla, it then took him two to three hours to fully wake up. The quantity of sleeping pills he consumed caused grogginess and confusion.

Priscilla and Elvis Presley cut into their wedding cake. She wears her wedding dress and veil and he wears a tuxedo.
Priscilla and Elvis Presley | Bettmann/Contributor via Getty

Priscilla Presley Said Elvis’ ‘Greatest Fear’ in Their Relationship Led Him to Pull Away From Her

“Asking him to make a decision, even a simple one such as what movie he wanted to see that night, was ill-advised,” Priscilla wrote. “He was just too groggy and irritable from the sleeping pills, which were causing him to sleep as many as fourteen hours a day.”

Priscilla said she was “always concerned” about his pill usage. Anytime she expressed this, though, he simply told her that he read medical dictionaries and believed that everything he took was safe.

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.