Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder and falls under the category of parasomnia. Parasomnia causes the person to show abnormal behaviors while sleeping. Commonly, sleepwalkers get up while still asleep and engage in activities like walking, hence the name. In scientific terms, sleepwalking is also known as somnambulism.
Children mostly display this condition, which gradually disappears on reaching the teenage phase. However, some adults may still continue to experience sleepwalking. You can also develop this sleep disorder at any point in time. There are a number of factors that may cause sleepwalking in adults and younger children.
Many may worry when they or someone dear to them develop this sleep behavior. Keep on reading to know all about this type of parasomnia, why it occurs, and how to deal with it?
A person with this disorder may not necessarily walk and can do harmless to harmful activities like driving a car. While sleepwalking, the person is not aware of the activities. Some even keep their eyes open but cannot truly see since they are still asleep. Sleepwalkers cannot usually remember any of their unusual activities.
Sleeping makes us feel fresh and energetic. But do you know that our sleep has several stages? There are in total five stages of sleep but are mainly divided into two categories – NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.
The five stages of sleep are:
Now, sleepwalking occurs during the deep sleep stage of NREM sleep. But it can occur during the initial stages of sleep as well. Since it occurs in the initial stage, sleepwalking occurs within 90 minutes of sleep. A sleepwalking episode usually lasts a maximum of 30 minutes.
Sleepwalking involves a number of activities, apart from walking, that may or may not be dangerous. Commonly these are the symptoms of sleepwalking:
Some more unusual symptoms of sleepwalking:
Not everyone we know has this particular sleepwalking disorder, so what causes this behavior to form? Experts say factors such as the surrounding environment, psychological, and genetics play an undeniable role in this regard.
Sleepwalking occurs only when one goes to sleep at night and not during the daytime. Why? During the daytime, our nap time duration is usually less, hence the chances of sleepwalking in the daytime is less.
Usually, young children who deal with sleepwalking inherit the condition when either or both of their parents had the same sleep disorder at some point.
The mental and external factors play an important role here.
Other than these, some other factors that may cause this condition are –
A point that is worth mentioning is that a person who suffers from sleepwalking doesn’t necessarily mean that he/she has a mental illness.
The biggest risk in such a situation is the sleepwalker may get hurt, and the people staying with the sleepwalker may get hurt as well.
The first step to this is consulting the medical expert and diagnosing why sleepwalking is occurring. After this, follow the steps below:
Doctor consultation may be more than important if you are sleepwalking. But when should you go?
There are three ways to diagnose sleepwalking –
The treatment for sleepwalking is commonly recommended when the episodes become frequent, violent, and out of control. Doctors may also prescribe low dose lorazepam and antidepressants to treat the condition if necessary. Other than this, the sleep routine may be rectified along with behavior management sessions.
Sleepwalking can occur in 1 to 15 percent of people, generally speaking. In most cases, the episodes do not last long and go away without doing much damage. But there are always certain cases, where medical help and proper care is of utmost importance. A study also reveals that hypnosis also may help people with such sleeping disorders. So, take proper care and don’t panic.
Also Read: Sleep Talking: A ‘Disorder