Sleepwalking formally called somnambulism is a disorder you must have heard of, or seen in the movies before now. Sleepwalking is a behavior disorder that begins during deep sleep and causes the sleeper to walk or perform other complex tasks and behaviors while asleep.
It is very much prevalent in kids than in adults, and there is a higher possibility of it occurring when a person is sleep-deprived.
Since a sleepwalker usually remains in a deep sleep throughout the entire process, he or she may not be difficult to awaken and will likely not recall the sleepwalking incident.
Sleepwalking mostly involves more than getting out of bed and walking during sleep; it involves a series of complex behaviors that are carried out while the person is sleeping, with the most obvious being sleepwalking.
The symptoms of sleepwalking disorder range from merely sitting up in bed and focusing on an object or looking around, climbing down the stairs, walking around the house, going outside the house, and drive long distances.
Most people believe that a sleepwalker should never be awakened, but this is a misconception. It can be very dangerous not to awaken a sleepwalker.
The prevalence of sleepwalkers in the world is estimated to be between 1% to 15%. The start or persistence of sleepwalking when a person reaches adulthood is quite common and is usually not linked with any particular underlying psychological or psychiatric problems.
Common triggers for sleepwalking include sedative agents (including alcohol), sleep deprivation, febrile illnesses, and some medications.
The prevalence of sleepwalking a lot higher for kids, especially the ones between the three and seven years of age, and occurs more often in children who have sleep apnea.
There is also a larger record of sleepwalking among kids who experience bedwetting. A related disorder that has been spotted is Sleep terrors and both tend to run in families.
Symptoms of sleepwalking
Sleepwalking is mostly initiated during deep sleep. However, it may occur during the lighter sleep stages known as NREM, usually within the first few minutes or few hours of falling asleep. In this case, the sleepwalker may be partially awake during the episode.
Apart from the popular symptom of walking during deep sleep, other symptoms of sleepwalking are as follows:
- Sleep talking
- Little or no memory of the event
- Difficulty arousing the sleepwalker during an episode
- Inappropriate behavior such as peeing in closets (more common in children)
- Screaming (when sleepwalking occurs in conjunction with sleep terrors)
- Violent attacks on the person trying to awaken the sleepwalker
There is no particular treatment for sleepwalkers or sleepwalking. In a lot of cases, simply working on achieving better sleep hygiene may completely eliminate the problem.
If you are dealing with symptoms, you will have to talk to your doctor or discuss with a sleep specialist about possible ways to prevent the occurrence of injury during your sleepwalking episodes and about the possibility of spotting an underlying illness.
Also, be ready to discuss with your pediatrician or doctor any factors, such as medication, fatigue, or stress, which may cause symptoms.
There are some options for treatment for sleepwalking in adults, and they may include hypnosis. Also, there are several cases where sleepwalking patients have recorded the successful treatment of their symptoms using hypnosis alone.
Pharmacological therapies like sedative-hypnotics or antidepressants have also been reported to help reduce the episodes of sleepwalking in some people.
Sleepwalking is most common in children and will usually be outgrown over time, especially as they begin to have a decreased amount of deep sleep. If symptoms of sleepwalking persist through adolescence, the best bet is to consult your doctor or psychiatrist.
Coping with sleepwalking
As sleep deprivation is a major contributor to sleepwalking, it can be helpful to get more sleep by increasing the amount of time you have scheduled for sleep. Other possible sleepwalking triggers include alcohol and specific medications.
Also, medical experts have recommended establishing a regular, relaxing routine before bedtime as a way to cope with sleepwalking.
Creating a safe sleep environment is vital to preventing accidents and injury during sleepwalking episodes. For instance, if your child is a sleepwalker, do not let him or her sleep on a couch or in a bunk bed.
Also, take away any sharp or breakable objects from the places near the bed. You can install small gates on stairways, and properly lock the doors and windows in your home before going to bed.
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