Home Sleep Health Everything you need to know about sleepwalking

6 min.

28 April 2022

Everything you need to know about sleepwalking

#sleepwalking
Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is when a person wakes up and walks around while still asleep. Sleepwalking is more prevalent in children than in adults, and it is usually overcome by adolescence. Sleepwalking infrequently does not always indicate a significant condition or necessitate intervention. Recurrent sleepwalking, on the other hand, could indicate an underlying sleep issue. 

What causes sleepwalking in adults?

Sleepwalking, according to experts, occurs when a person is in a deep slumber and is partially awoken in a way that causes muscular activity while staying mostly asleep. Sleepwalking is an arousal disorder that occurs during N3 sleep, which is the deepest stage of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. Sleep terrors, which can occur alongside sleepwalking, are another NREM disorder.

Here are some factors that may influence sleepwalking:

  • Sleep deprivation: Sleep deprivation has been linked to a higher risk of sleepwalking, which could be attributed to more time spent in deep sleep following a period of sleep loss.
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol late in the evening might disrupt a person's sleep cycle and increase the chance of sleepwalking.
  • Stress: Stress can affect sleep in a variety of ways, including generating more fragmented or disordered sleep, which can raise the risk of sleepwalking. Some forms of stress are linked to discomfort or change, such as while travelling and sleeping in a strange location.
  • Medications: Sedative medications may cause patients to go into a form of sleep that enhances their odds of experiencing a sleepwalking episode.

Sleepwalking can also be triggered by other sleep disorders that cause you to wake up repeatedly throughout the night, such as obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome.

Children who sleepwalk may experience fewer episodes as they grow older, or they may continue to do so as adults. Even while most sleepwalking begins in childhood, it can also occur in adulthood.

What are the symptoms of sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking symptoms might include a variety of basic or complex behaviours performed while a person is still mostly asleep. During an episode, a person's eyes may be open and glassy, and their face may be blank. Their speech is frequently incoherent or scarcely responsive.

Sleepwalking episodes can range anywhere from a few seconds to half an hour, with the majority lasting under 10 minutes. The individual may return to bed and fall asleep again on their own, or they may awaken puzzled while they are still not in bed.

In most cases, they will have no recollection of it in the morning or will have a hazy remembrance of it. If a person is awakened during sleepwalking, they may be disoriented and have trouble remembering what happened.

Is sleepwalking dangerous?

Sleepwalking is not inherently dangerous. Although many sleepwalkers experience daily drowsiness, walking while asleep is not considered a sign of any major underlying psychiatric disorders1.

The sleepwalker, on the other hand, faces the risk of doing something dangerous to themselves or others, such as stumbling and falling or attempting to cook while asleep. Sleepwalking can also have repercussions for a bed partner, roommates, and/or housemates. Sleep disturbances can occur as a result of episodes, and a person's actions during an episode might have a negative impact.

Why shouldn’t you wake up someone who is sleepwalking?

It can be tough to wake up someone who is sleepwalking. Sleepwalking is a form of parasomnia, which refers to behaviours that occur when a person is neither entirely sleeping nor fully awake. During sleep, research on brain waves has revealed that various regions of the brain can be in multiple states of arousal2.

It's a common misconception that waking up a sleepwalker will result in a heart attack or neurological damage. Although the shock of waking up in a strange place with no idea how they got there may be distressing, there is no evidence that waking up a sleepwalker is harmful to their health.

How is sleepwalking treated?

Treatment for sleepwalking is determined by the patient's age, frequency of episodes, and the severity of the episodes. It's best to discuss sleepwalking issues with a doctor, who can work to determine the most likely reason and provide a customised treatment plan.

Sleepwalking does not always necessitate therapy because episodes are uncommon and pose minimal risk to the sleeper or others around them. As sleepwalking episodes become less common with age, some people's sleepwalking resolves on its own without the need for any specific treatment.

If a person's sleepwalking is caused by an underlying disorder such as OSA or RLS, addressing the underlying disorder may be enough to stop the sleepwalking. Similarly, if sedatives or other medications are causing sleepwalking, the doctor may suggest adjusting the dosage or swapping to a different prescription.

Sleepwalkers with a genetic link to sleepwalking may be able to reduce their sleepwalking by addressing causes of stress, adhering to a soothing nighttime routine, and practising better sleep hygiene techniques.

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How are sleep disorders diagnosed?

People with sleep disorders may have difficulty going to sleep and may feel exceedingly lethargic during the day, depending on the type of disorder. Sleep deprivation can affect your energy, mood, focus, and overall health. Sleep disorders can sometimes be an indication or symptom of another medical or mental health concern. Once the underlying cause is identified and treated, the sleeping issues may go away. If you feel you have a sleep disordercondition, it's critical to get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. The negative effects of sleep disturbances might lead to further negative health implications if they are not managed.

How are sleep disorders diagnosed?

People with sleep disorders may have difficulty going to sleep and may feel exceedingly lethargic during the day, depending on the type of disorder. Sleep deprivation can affect your energy, mood, focus, and overall health. Sleep disorders can sometimes be an indication or symptom of another medical or mental health concern. Once the underlying cause is identified and treated, the sleeping issues may go away. If you feel you have a sleep disordercondition, it's critical to get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. The negative effects of sleep disturbances might lead to further negative health implications if they are not managed.

Sleep Meditation: Secret to Better Sleep

Have you ever experienced trouble in falling asleep?  You close your eyes but your mind keeps spinning so you cannot fall asleep? Well, sometimes our minds just won’t stop bothering us – and that’s where meditation can help. To fall asleep, our body and mind need to calm down and relax. Sounds simple, right? However, many people find this utterly difficult to do. Meditation, as a relaxation technique, may help you to quiet your body and mind while enhancing inner peace and balance. This is especially useful when you start focusing on worrisome thoughts at night in bed a time when you are not as easily distracted by other things as during the day.

Sleep Meditation: Secret to Better Sleep

Have you ever experienced trouble in falling asleep?  You close your eyes but your mind keeps spinning so you cannot fall asleep? Well, sometimes our minds just won’t stop bothering us – and that’s where meditation can help. To fall asleep, our body and mind need to calm down and relax. Sounds simple, right? However, many people find this utterly difficult to do. Meditation, as a relaxation technique, may help you to quiet your body and mind while enhancing inner peace and balance. This is especially useful when you start focusing on worrisome thoughts at night in bed a time when you are not as easily distracted by other things as during the day.