Sleepwalking (Somnambulism)

go to bedSleepwalking is a sleep disorder that causes people to become active—usually by walking—while still asleep. The disorder is also called somnambulism and is especially common in children.

What Causes Sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking typically occurs during stages three and four–the deepest stages–of non-REM sleep. The causes of the disorder are not well understood, though it may have a genetic basis. Some children grow out of sleepwalking in adulthood, but the condition can also occur in adults. Fatigue, stress, alcohol use, sedatives, and some prescription drugs can increase a person’s risk of sleepwalking. Sleepwalking sometimes co-occurs with other conditions, including sleep apnea, bedwetting, and night terrors, though it is unclear if there is a correlation between these conditions and sleepwalking.

Symptoms of Sleepwalking
People who sleepwalk appear to be awake, with their eyes open. However, they do not respond to conversation and can be very difficult to wake up. Sleepwalkers may engage in a variety of activities ranging from eating, performing household chores, to attempting to drive a car. They may also engage in repetitive movements such as rubbing their eyes. Because people who sleepwalk often attempt to engage in normal daily activities while sleeping, sleepwalking can pose safety hazards.

Treatment for Sleepwalking
It is a myth that waking sleepwalkers is dangerous, but it can be very difficult to wake sleepwalkers, and they may be dazed after waking. Because sleepwalking is most common in children, who tend to grow out of it, doctors often do not treat it. However, tranquilizers can be helpful for some people who chronically sleepwalk. When sleepwalking occurs as a result of prescription sleep medications, most doctors recommend that people stop taking the prescription. The most important treatment for sleepwalkers involves taking safety precautions such as monitoring the sleepwalker to ensure he or she does not injure him/herself, blocking the stairs, and removing objects that a sleepwalker may trip over or use to harm him/herself.

References:

  1. A.D.A.M. Editor Board. (2011, November 18). Sleepwalking. PubMed Health. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001811/
  2. Colman, A. M. (2006). Oxford dictionary of psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Last Updated: 08-26-2015

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  • Nicholas W

    Nicholas W

    September 6th, 2014 at 12:32 AM

    Thanks admin for sharing such useful information about sleepwalking in which you share the treatment for this condition.

  • Janice D.

    Janice D.

    November 1st, 2018 at 12:13 PM

    I am going to say that THANK GOD I have finally found the right place to find out what I’ve been trying to tell my family!! I was driving in my sleep think looking for food and I drove into a soybean field and woke up in the E.R. hours later,I am mentally ill in the state of Wisconsin and when I went to court for this I was completely unaware of the way it was all going to go!! First I was alone,they told me that I didn’t qualify for an attorney they put me up on the stand and the judge refused to look at my information papers with my diagnosis and treatment for my illness along with all of the antisycodic meds!! I told the judge that I was asleep and don’t remember anything until they released me from the E.R. I said that I drive,walk,talk,and eat in my sleep due to sever long-term side effects of my meds,mostly my serquil 600mgs nightly plus others. Judge told me she’s never heard of such a thing and hit me hard with charges of a DUI,that judge took advantage of my disability and my life has changed drastically and not for the better!!! I’ve gone so far down and I need help!!! Can you please help me with this????

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