By: Lauri Leadley, CCSH, RPSGT – Clinical Sleep Educator|Sleep Coach
Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, occurs during sleep and it results in a person walking or even carrying out physical tasks/activities.
One of the most common causes of sleepwalking is sleep deprivation. However, other factors such as certain medications or consumption of sedative agents can also trigger sleepwalking.
Because sleepwalking happens during deep sleep, the person might not have any recollection of the occurrence.
What makes sleepwalking dangerous is that while sleepwalking a person can carry out complex actions such as walking not just around the house, but they could leave the house or even get in a car!
As a professional sleep coach, I often come across many misconceptions about sleepwalking. One being, a person should not be woken up if they are sleepwalking.
However, this is not true. If you want to prevent anything dangerous from happing to someone who sleepwalks, the person should be woken up or gently guided back to their bed.
Is Sleepwalking a Common Occurrence?
Sleepwalking among children is estimated to be as high as 40%. Among adults, however, the prevalence of sleepwalking is between 2% to 3%. Sleepwalking can run in the family. So, if someone in your family (sibling, parent) sleepwalks, your chances of sleepwalking increase substantially.
As mentioned above, a number of factors can lead to sleepwalking, including use of certain medications and sedative agents.
However, a number of health conditions such as heartburn, nighttime seizures, nighttime asthma, heart rhythm problems, and psychiatric conditions such as panic attacks, PTSD, or multiple personality disorder can lead to sleepwalking.
Common Symptoms of Sleepwalking
Although sleepwalking mostly occurs during a state of deep sleep, sometimes a person may sleepwalk even during lighter sleep stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM).
Seven common symptoms of sleepwalking include the following:
- Sleep talking
- Screaming, if it happens coincides with sleep terrors
- Little or absolutely no memory of sleepwalking
- Difficult waking up while sleepwalking
- Actions that might seem inappropriate such as urinating in closets – this is actually something that is common in children
- Getting violent with the person attempting to rouse the sleepwalker
What are the treatment options for sleepwalking?
While there is no specific treatment for completely curing sleepwalking, if an underlying medical condition is a leading factor for sleepwalking then it is absolutely important to address the condition.
If sleepwalking is due to an underlying sleep disorder, then treating the sleep disorder can help in preventing episodes of sleepwalking.
In either case, treating the underlying cause of sleepwalking should be a priority for the simple reason that a sleepwalker can easily get injured or worse end up in a potentially dangerous situation.
If you know you sleepwalk, talk to your health care provider or a sleep coach to identify the triggers or to address any underlying health issue as soon as possible.
Sleepwalking in children usually resolves itself over time as the duration of deep sleep starts decreasing. If, however, sleepwalking continues through adolescence, it is best to consult with a medical professional at the earliest.
Tips to Reduce or Prevent Sleepwalking
- Maintain good sleep hygiene – try and clock the required hours of sleep on a daily basis.
- Reduce stress triggers – meditate or practice relaxation techniques and exercise.
- Avoid consuming addictive agents such as alcohol or drugs.
- Avoid any kind of auditory and visual stimulation before going to bed.
Keep Yourself Safe
To prevent injury while sleepwalking, do the following:
- Ensure your environment/surroundings are safe from any sharp or potentially harmful objects.
- Place an alarm of some sort or place a bell on the bedroom door so you are alerted or aroused from sleep.
- Try and sleep on the ground floor so you don’t have to navigate your way through the stairs and suffer a potential injury or fall.
- Keep your doors and windows locked to make it difficult to venture outside during an episode of sleepwalking.
- You could also use heavy drapes to keep your glass windows covered, again, to prevent injury.
Valley Sleep Therapy – We Believe in Sound Sleep for All!
If you are looking for information about sleep devices and products or services for treating different sleep disorders, visit us at Valley Sleep Therapy. Browse our online CPAP supplies store or visit us in Mesa, AZ today!