If you have ever woken up somewhere strange with no idea of how you got to be there, chances are you sleepwalked. Sleepwalking can be a scary occurrence, as it can lead to unpredictable, dangerous behavior, like walking off a cliff or jumping into a pool. Sleepwalking is most common in young children, although some adults regularly sleepwalk. It is useful to familiarize yourself with the symptoms, risks, causes, and treatments of sleepwalking. Everyone who sleeps, including you and your loved ones, is susceptible to this nighttime behavior and its resulting potential for injuries.
Sleepwalking occurs during NREM (non-rapid eye movement) or dreamless sleep. If someone is sleepwalking, he or she may:
- Open the eyes and sit up in bed
- Talk or move clumsily
- Scream or thrash about
- Take up routine activities like dressing themselves, eating, or driving a car
- Be difficult to awaken from sleep
In children, sleepwalking symptoms usually diminish with age. If you are an adult experiencing frequent sleepwalking, consult your doctor for treatment.
Sleepwalking Risk Factors
If you have sleepwalkers in your family, you are more susceptible to exhibiting the disorder. As of now, heredity is the only reliable risk factor for sleepwalking.
Certain factors can lead to sleepwalking. These causes include:
- Stress or anxiety
- Sleeping in an unfamiliar space or room
- Certain medications like sleep aids
- Sleep deprivation
Some medical conditions are often associated with sleepwalking, like:
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
- Sleep-disordered breathing like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
- Migraines or head injuries
Often treatment for sleepwalking is unnecessary. If someone you know sleepwalks, gently guide them back to bed, whether he or she is a child or an adult. Hypnosis occasionally proves an effective sleepwalking treatment for an adult. If the sleepwalking is tied to a specific medication, a change in prescription may be needed to remedy the problem.
Simple lifestyle alterations may lessen the frequency of sleepwalking. These suggested changes include:
- Stress reduction
- Regular exercise
- Getting adequate sleep every night
- Maintaining a sleep diary to discover patterns in your sleepwalking
Sleepwalking should not be taken lightly, as it is a potentially dangerous occurrence. If you have concerns about your own sleepwalking habits or the habits of someone you love, talk to your doctor today.