Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a behavior disorder that occurs during deep sleep and results in performing behaviors, such as walking, while asleep. Sleepwalking is more common in children than adults and is also more likely to occur in those who are sleep deprived. Typically, sleepwalkers remain in a deep sleep throughout their episode, making them unlikely to remember sleepwalking.
Sleepwalking often involves more than just walking during sleep. Sleepwalking sufferers may simply sit up in bed, walk around the house, or even leave the house and potentially try to drive or partake in other activities that could be dangerous while asleep. It is a common belief that sleepwalkers should not be awakened however this is a misconception. It can be more dangerous to allow a sleepwalker to stay asleep than to wake them.
Sleepwalking is believed to occur in approximately one to fifteen percent of the general population. There are several common triggers that can cause sleepwalking including sleep deprivation, certain medications and illnesses, and the consumption of alcohol. Sleepwalking occurs more often in children, especially between the ages of three and seven. Sleepwalking is also more likely to occur in children that suffer from sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleepwalking
Sleepwalking generally takes place during deep sleep but can also occur during the lighter sleep stages. The most obvious symptom of sleepwalking is walking during deep sleep but other symptoms can include talking during sleep, not having memories of the event, difficulty being woken up while sleepwalking, screaming, and inappropriate behavior, such as urinating in strange places. Some sleepwalkers will also display violence and may attempt to attack the person trying to wake them up.
How to Treat Sleepwalking
There are no particular treatments for sleepwalking and in many cases taking simple steps to improve sleep hygiene can help. Anyone that is experiencing symptoms of sleepwalking should contact a doctor or sleep specialist to discuss the issue. While rare, sleepwalking can be an indication of an underlying illness. Doctors should also be made aware of any factors that may trigger sleepwalking, such as stress, medications, or fatigue. For some adults, sleepwalking can be treated through hypnosis. Several different medications have also proven helpful in reducing the occurrence of sleepwalking in some people. For children, sleepwalking is usually outgrown over time though if symptoms persist, it is important to speak with a doctor.
Dangers of Sleepwalking
Some sleepwalkers exhibit mild symptoms and will simply sit up in bed or start speaking while asleep. People who actually get up and walk around during a deep sleep can put themselves in danger. Sleepwalkers have been known to leave their houses and walk into roads, and some have even attempted to drive while sleeping. To reduce dangers, it is important to create a safe sleep environment. Breakable or sharp object should be removed from the area around the bed. To prevent falls, gates can be installed on stairways, and doors and windows can be locked to prevent sleepwalkers from exiting the home.
Learn More About Sleepwalking
- The Sleep Foundation – Sleepwalking Overview
- Sleepwalking Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
- Sleepwalking Children – Information for Parents
- Healthy Sleep – An Overview of Sleep Disorders
- The Different Stages of Sleep
- The Dangers of Sleepwalking and REM Behavior Disorder
- Children and Sleepwalking
- Sleep Problems in Children
- Sleepwalking Associated With Drinking?
- Are We in The Dark About Sleepwalking’s Dangers?
- Is It Dangerous to Wake a Sleepwalker?
- Sleepwalking Myths, Truths, and Facts