Sleepwalking is one of the most common sleep-related issues. Overall, sleepwalking is a behavior disorder that occurs during deep sleep.
Sleepwalking is also known as somnambulism, and by definition – somnambulism always occurs during deep sleep and results in walking while asleep, or performing another complex behavior while asleep.
This sleep disorder is more common in children than adults and is more likely to occur if a person is sleep deprivation, so it can appear in teens or even college students.
Since sleepwalking happens in deep sleep, it means that the person sleepwalking will remain asleep during these sleeping activities, and will probably not remember the sleepwalking at all.
What Is Sleepwalking?
Simply said, sleepwalking is a behavioral disorder that causes you to get up and walk while you are asleep. As mentioned earlier, the official name of this disorder is somnambulism.
This disorder usually occurs when you’re going from a deep stage of sleep to a light stage of sleep.
Some people talk while sleepwalking, while in general no one remembers sleepwalking. Moreover, people can’t respond while sleepwalking and usually don’t remeber it.
Children age 4 to 8 are prone to experiencing sleepwalking, while adults are no stranger to it, as well. If you know that your family members spend hers of his night sleepwalking, it’s important to create a safe environment.
Make sure that doors and windows are always locked, those sharp objects are in a safe place, and if you have stairs, it can’t harm to install gates at the top of stairs.
Children usually outgrow this condition by the age of 10. Luckily, this condition is usually no a sign of a serious problem, or severe medical treatments. However, sleepwalking may suggest an underlying sleep disorder.
In adults, sleepwalking can coexist with other sleep disorders as well as medical conditions. Again, if someone in your home spends nigh sleepwalking, make sure that you create a safe environment.
Sleepwalking occurs more in children with sleep apnea, while it may appear more often in children who experience bedwetting. In general, sleep terrors are related disorders and tend to run in families.
Are there specific symptoms related to sleepwalking? Yes.
Sleepwalking is generally initiated during deep sleep, but it may also occur in the lighter sleep stages of NREM, usually within a few hours of falling asleep. Walking during sleep is the most obvious sign that someone is sleepwalking.
Luckily, there are other signs to learn if you or someone you love spend some moments of sleepwalking around the room. These the most common sleepwalking symptoms:
- Talking in sleep
- No memory of sleepwalking
- Violent attacks on the person trying to awake the person sleepwalking
- Inappropiate behavior such as urinating in closets (this is more common in children)
- Sit up in bed and open eyes
- Have a glassy-eyed expression
- Be confused after waking
- Have problems functioning normally the following day, because of the disrupted sleep
- Have constant sleep terrors
In some rare cases, a person may also:
- Do daily routines while seeping, such as talking, eating, or even dressing
- Leave the house or even drive a car
- Engage in unusual behavior without awareness, including intimate activities
- Get injured
- Become violent
When To See A Doctor?
In general, the occasional episodes of sleepwalking aren’t an alarming sign.
Moreover, occasional sleepwalking resolve on their own. You should always mention it to you, doctor.
Sometimes a huge amount of stress can lead to unusual behavior, including sleepwalking. However, if you experience anything if the following you should contact your doctor immediately:
- Sleepwalking happens a couple of times per week
- Injuries are often and the sleepwalker has no idea how they happen
- The entire family has sleep disorder for unknown reasons
- You or your child experienced sleepwalking in young age
Did you know that sleepwalking is actually classified as a parasomnia? By definition, parasomnia is an undesirable behavior during sleep.
Sleepwalking is known as a disorder of arousal, meaning it occurs usually in the deepest stage of REM sleep.
There is no only one cause that leads to sleepwalking, because many conditions can lead to sleepwalking, such as:
- Sleep deprivation
- Travel sleep interruptions
- Sleep schedule disruptions
So far, it’s known that sleepwalking can be triggered by various underlying disorders that may easily interfere with sleep, such as:
- Breathing disorders
- Substance use
- Restless leg syndrome
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Of course, this disorder can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, weight, or lifestyle. However, there are some risk factors, such as:
- Genetics: it turns out that sleepwalking runs in the family. It’s more common to appear in children whose parent has a history of sleepwalking. This is even stronger if both often parents have a history of sleeping disorder or sleepwalking.
- Age: since sleepwalking appears in children more often than in adults, adulthood is more likely related to other and various underlying conditions.
The good thing about sleepwalking is it’s usually simple to diagnose. Your doctor will discuss your lifestyle, symptoms, and medical history.
Some tests might be included to rule out some additional conditions.
So, some tests might be done to find out whether a medical condition is making the person sleepwalking.
Most common tests are:
- Physical exam
- Sleep study
- EEG. This is probably the rarest method, and it serves to measures your brain activity.
When it comes to treating sleepwalking, there is no specific treatment. Luckily, in most cases, an improvement in sleep hygiene may eliminate the problem.
The very first thing that you should is to see your doctor, adn follow the doctor’s guidelines and follow-up when needed.
You should also talk with your doctor about the best methods to keep your sleeping area safe, and how to avoid getting injuries, and if there are any reasons for suspecting that you might suffer from an underlying illness.
Lately, one of the most effective ways of fro treating sleepwalking may include hypnosis.
Then, changing a few lifestyle habits might help you stop sleepwalking. Having a bedtime routine, and a sleep schedule can help.
Next to that avoid heavy drinks and heavy exercise before bedtime.
Also, if you take medication, ask your doctor, whether it might play a role.
In most cases, sleepwalking treatment may include hypnosis, sedatives, or medications such as antidepressants.
What To Do If You Find Someone Sleepwalking?
If you see someone sleepwalking, or you know that your family members pends night by sleepwalking, the very best thing that you could do for them is to make sure that they are safe.
It’s important to be silent, and very careful is a sleepwalker.
Make sure that you guide the sleepwalker to the bed gently. Usually, if you don’t touch them they will return to bed to sleep again.
Never shout or startle the person and never physically restrain them unless they are in danger. Sudden and loud action just may lash out.
The Bottom Line
Sleepwalking can be a life-threating occurrence if the sleeping area is not safe. Therefore, prevention of any injury is a must.
Make sure that the area of a sleepwalker is always safe, without sharp objects, and with windows and doors always locked.
If your child sleepwalks, never let them sleep on the top bed or even a bunk bed. You should think about safety gates at the top of the stairs.
If you have someone over to babysit your child, make sure that you inform them about the child’s sleepwalking habits, just to avoid any potentially dangerous situation.