Also called somnambulism, sleepwalking is a condition that occurs when you arise from slow-wave sleep. And hate to burst your bubble, it’s not limited to walking around during sleep. It also involves sitting in bed, looking around, and performing routine activities while still asleep.
Since one of my children sleepwalks, I am often found reading about this condition. I was exploring Spectrum packages last week and stumbled upon a post on the frequency of sleepwalking. It turns out 6.9 per cent of people have had at least one episode of sleepwalking in their life. Also, its prevalence is higher in children.
What is Sleepwalking Exactly?
Sleepwalking occurs in the deepest part of NREM sleep. Often, it begins after one to two hours of falling asleep. During this episode, your eyes might be open, but you are in a deep state of sleep. The American Psychiatric Association doesn’t call it a disorder unless it happens frequently enough to stress you out or affect your ability to function the next day.
Causes of Sleepwalking
Researchers have identified several health conditions that trigger sleepwalking episodes. Some even say you may have inherited it. Let’s look into the possible causes:
1. Stress: Stress and anxiety are the worst enemies of restful sleep. Some scientists also believe that daytime stress can contribute to this condition as well.
2. Sleep Deprivation: People with a history of sleepwalking are found sleep-deprived. If you are not getting enough sleep for days, you are more vulnerable to this condition.
3. Migraine: Individuals with chronic migraine are susceptible to sleepwalking.
4. Fever: This is primarily why many children experience sleepwalking. Fever in kids often causes night terrors and disturbs their sleep.
5. Restless Leg Syndrome: Some studies show there is a connection between sleepwalking and medications for treating RLS.
Other possible causes include:
- Breathing issues
- Parkinson’s disease
- Substance abuse
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Certain medication
- Going to bed with a full bladder
- Head injury
- Change in environment
How to Know If Someone is Sleepwalking?
When a person is sleepwalking, they don’t respond even if you look into their eyes. Apart from getting out of bed and walking around, the symptoms exhibited by a sleepwalker include:
- Repeating movements like rubbing eyes
- Looking dazed
- Clumsy behaviour
Experts say sleepwalkers can engage in other activities too during the episode, such as preparing food, eating, talking, urinating, attempting to leave the house, etc.
Since they are asleep, they do not remember what they were doing. It’s a good idea to walk someone sleepwalking because the chances of getting injured are high. Make sure you wake them up gently because they will be startled when woken up.
1. Never wake up a sleepwalker: It can be highly dangerous not to wake up a sleepwalker. They could hurt themselves or others around. Some say the best intervention is to guide them back to bed instead of waking them up.
2. It occurs randomly: Sleepwalking occurs during the first half of the night, usually at the same time every night.
3. Sleepwalking occurs in adults: The truth is children are more likely to sleepwalk than adults.
4. Sleepwalking does not affect daytime behaviour: This condition certainly has daytime effects. It messes up with your sleep. You might feel sleepy the following day.
Is There a Treatment for This Condition?
Sleepwalking is dangerous, and anyone who’s struggling with this condition would like to learn about its treatment. Treatments do exist, but they vary based on the person’s age, frequency of the sleepwalking episodes, and severity of the condition.
In most cases, the doctor doesn’t recommend an active treatment. The episodes become less frequent with age, or it’s resolved with therapy.
If the sleepwalking is less frequent, it can be prevented by meditation (to reduce stress) and improving sleep habits. The doctor might prescribe you diazepam or Clonazepam to help lower the stress.
In children, the condition goes away as they mature. The doctor might recommend parents to take safety measures such as keeping sharp objects away from the room, removing tripping hazards, closing doors and windows, and installing motion sensors.
Medical experts are still trying to understand Sleepwalking. Fortunately, it’s not a disease, and it tends to go away as you mature. When I was binge-watching content on my Spectrum cable before going to bed, it messed up with my sleep big time I was on the brink of sleepwalking. My doctor suggested to quit watching TV at least an hour before bed, and it really helped.
Just like that, if you manage your triggers, you can keep yourself from sleepwalking and enjoy a restful sleep.
Author: Rosie Harman
Rosie Harman is a Senior Content Strategist, specializing in Technology. She holds a Master’s in Business Administration from The University of Texas at Arlington and has spent the majority of her career working in tech giants in Texas. When she’s not helping the content team, Rosie enjoys adventuring with her two children around her home town.