Sleepwalking is strange: a person is asleep, but they are also moving around on their feet.
If you know someone that sleepwalks, you undoubtedly have a ton of questions, such as: Should I wake them up? Can they hurt themselves? Can they hurt me?
We at TABIIB are here to shed some light on these questions.
Sleepwalking & What It Actually Means
Sleepwalking is characterized by complex action behaviour- walking during sleep. Occasionally, the person may talk, but it does not make sense. The person’s eyes are commonly open but have a characteristic glassy “look right through you” character.
Sleepwalking most commonly occurs during early childhood and less commonly during adolescence. Most kids who walk in their sleep only do so occasionally and outgrow it by the teen years.
Kids tend to sleepwalk within an hour or two of falling asleep and may walk around for anywhere from a few seconds to 30 minutes. One common misconception is that a person sleepwalking should not be awakened. It is not dangerous to awaken a sleepwalker, although it is common for the person to be confused or disoriented for a short time when awake. Another misconception is that a person cannot be injured while sleepwalking. Injuries caused by sleepwalking, for example, tripping and loss of balance, are common.
Despite its name, sleepwalking is also called somnambulism and it involves more than just walking.
Sleepwalking behaviours can be:
- harmless — like sitting up
- potentially dangerous — such as wandering outside
What Causes Sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking seems to be associated with inherited (genetic), environmental, physiologic, and medical factors.
One study documented that sleepwalking is ten times more likely to occur if a first-degree relative has a history of sleepwalking.
Sleep deprivation, chaotic sleep schedules, fever, stress, magnesium deficiency, and alcohol intoxication can trigger sleepwalking.
Physiologic factors that may contribute to sleepwalking include:
- Conditions such as pregnancy and menstruation are known to increase the frequency of sleepwalking
- Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)
- Gastroesophageal reflux (acid reflux – food or liquid regurgitating from the stomach into the food pipe)
- Night-time asthma
- Night-time seizures (convulsions)
How To Diagnose Sleepwalking?
Usually, no exams and tests are necessary. However, a medical evaluation may be completed to rule out medical causes of sleepwalking. Sleep study tests may be done in persons in whom the diagnosis is still unclear.
To diagnose sleepwalking, your doctor reviews your medical history and your symptoms. Your evaluation may include a physical exam. Your doctor may do a physical exam to identify any conditions that may be confused with sleepwalking, such as night time seizures, other sleep disorders or panic attacks.
How do you treat or stop sleepwalking?
A person who has a sleepwalking disorder or knows someone with the same can take the following measures mentioned below:
1.Get adequate sleep.
2. Keep a safe sleeping environment, free of harmful or sharp objects.
3.Sleep in a bedroom on the ground floor if possible to prevent falls and avoid bunk beds.
4.Remove obstacles in the room, tripping over toys or objects is a potential hazard.
5.Relaxation and mental imagery should be undertaken only with the help of an experienced behavioural therapist or hypnotist.
6.Meditate or do relaxation exercises.
7.Medications: Benzodiazepines, such as estazolam (ProSom), or tricyclic antidepressants, such as trazodone (Desyrel), have been shown to be useful. Medication can often be discontinued after three to 5 weeks without recurrence of symptoms. Occasionally, the frequency of episodes increases briefly after discontinuing the medication.
8.Avoid the use of alcohol or central nervous system depressants if prone to sleepwalking.
9.Avoid fatigue or insomnia, because this can instigate an episode of sleepwalking.
10.Avoid or minimize stress, anxiety, and conflict, which can worsen the condition.
Be sure to see a doctor if you are concerned about your sleepwalking at TABIIB website or app.