By: Kylie Martin-Crosby
What is it?
Sleepwalking (Somnambulism) is a disorder that occurs when people walk or do other activities while they are still asleep. Sleepwalking occurs during non-REM (Non-rapid eye movement) sleep, specifically in Stage 3 or 4 sleep.
- Acting confused or disoriented when the person wakes up
- Aggressive behavior when woken up
- Having a blank look on the face
- Unexplained injuries
- Opening eyes during sleep
- Not remembering the sleep walking
- Performing detailed activity of any type during sleep
- Sitting up and appearing awake during sleep
- Taking in sleep and saying things that do not make sense
- Walking during sleep
What causes this disorder?
Children: The cause is still unknown although it is linked to genetics and thought to appear as a side affect of fatigue, anxiety, and/or fevers.
Adults: Could be caused by
- The use of alcohol, sedatives, or other medication.
- Medical conditions
- Mental disorders
Elderly: Could be caused by
- organic brain syndrome
- REM behavior disorders.
How is this diagnosed?
Usually sleepwalking is diagnosed quickly and without the help of a doctor. However, if the problem persists, professionals may be contacted so tests can take place to rule out other possible disorders the person may have.
Most of the time treatment isn't necessary for sleepwalking. When treatment is needed, however, there are a few options:
- Limit the amount of stimulation a person has before they go to bed.
- Limit stress by mediating or doing relaxation exercises.
- Tranquilizers-Using short-acting tranquilizers can reduce the amount of sleepwalking episodes.
- Waking the sleepwalker- While there are myths that it is dangerous to wake up a sleepwalker, it is actually safe. The only problem with this is that the person may be confused or disoriented in the minutes following their awakening.
- "Typically, sleepwalking will go away after puberty, but in 25 percent of cases it continues into adulthood."