Tobias Wong had no apparent reason to commit suicide. He had a rising career as a designer and conceptual artist, and was in a stable, loving relationship. “We were always thinking about our future,” says boyfriend Tim Dubitsky. “We wanted kids. We wanted to find a house.” Instead, the 35-year-old hanged himself in May—and Dubitsky is convinced he did it while sleepwalking, reports the Telegraph (in a piece that lifts many quotes and details from a June New York Times article on Wong, that article's author, Alex Williams, pointed out to us. Click here for his version, which gives a much richer picture of Wong-as-artist.)
Wong was among the roughly 4% of adults who suffer from parasomnias, or sleepwalking. Dubitsky would sometimes awake to find him fleeing non-existent intruders, or sobbing to himself. Parasomniacs are “awake enough to perform very complex behaviors,” says one specialist. But if Wong's prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain where awareness resides—isn’t engaged, “it’s technically not suicide. It’s an accident.” This isn’t a unique case, either; a Gloucestershire sleepwalker hanged himself in 2001, and many more wander into traffic, hit their heads, or experience unconscious misfortunes.