Home > Disorders & Problems > Sleep Walking

Sleep Walking

By: Wendy Jacob - Updated: 20 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Sleepwalking Sleeptalking Parasomnias

The more dramatic examples of Sleepwalking can be seen in the news. Sleepwalkers are able to perform complex movements and have been known to drive, talk, urinate and act out dreams which they are unable to control. In extreme cases they may be involved in falls, accidents, fights or other incidents.

Deep Sleep

Sleepwalking (somnambulism) happens during deep sleep. It is rare in adults and more common in children. More boys than girls are affected and there is a connection between Sleepwalking and Night Terrors. Children may sleepwalk after waking from a nightmare, scream, and even try to leave the house or hide. They may urinate in a cupboard or other inappropriate place and fight or argue with anyone who attempts to wake them or guide them back to bed.

In adults, the condition is rarer. Adult sleepwalkers may leave the house, drive or perform other functions. They may fight with their partner or any person who tries to help. There have been cases where sleepwalkers have blamed their condition for involvement in violence or other misdemeanors.

Sleepwalking is more likely to occur during the first part of the night. It involves incomplete arousal out of deep sleep. Sleepwalkers are able to manoeuvre and perform complex actions, but will have little recall of what they have done. Observers may be surprised that they are sleepwalking as they may appear to be decisive and determined, and even fight off anyone who tries to interfere.

There is some evidence that Sleepwalking and other parasomnias such as Sleeptalking (somniloquy) and Night Terrors run in families. Children usually grow out of these naturally, but they can continue into adolescence and beyond. Although rare, they may persist into adulthood or even present for the first time after a trauma or during a stressful time.

Sleep Walking and Safety

Experts differ over whether sleepwalkers should be woken or not. Some advise gently guiding the walker back to bed and others suggest waking them first. The right course of action may depend on the individual and their response. A small child may be easily guided back to bed and may have no recollection of their behaviour in the morning. An adult may be argumentative and refuse to cooperate and need to be woken.

As sleepwalkers have no awareness of what they are doing the main concern is safety. Children should avoid bunk beds and parents should make use of stair gates and other protection. An adult sleepwalker may be harder to protect but by using window and door locks, hiding door and car keys and making sensible precautions it may be possible to prevent accidents.

Understanding Causes

There is no clear reason why children sleepwalk and many grow out of it with no lasting harm. Adults may have a history of the problem and it may reoccur during periods of stress or sleep deprivation. Many people are unaware of how stress and not getting enough sleep can affect their behaviour. They may look for other causes and become more anxious and believe there are more serious causes for the problem. In many cases an understanding of the condition and reassurance is enough to resolve the problem.

Sleep Deprivation and Alcohol may also be factors in adult Sleepwalking. Both affect the amount of time spent in deep sleep and REM sleep. Spending more time in deep sleep may be a trigger for the condition.

Less Walking, More Sleeping

Most children grow out of sleepwalking. Apart from keeping them safe, they should be reassured and educated about their condition. Care should be taken when sleeping away from home as they may be at risk in unfamiliar surroundings. Parents should make sure that they have sufficient sleep and that any other stressors in their life are discussed and resolved. Other children should be helped to understand what is happening and parents should try not to become too anxious.

Adults should make sure they have enough sleep and deal with any other stresses in their life. Alcohol and other stimulants should be avoided. It is advisable to discuss issues with partners and other friends and family who might need to be involved. Learning how to relax and adopting behaviours that will help improve sleep quality is also helpful.

Care should be taken when travelling or staying in unfamiliar places. Partners may find it difficult to cope especially if the sleeper is aggressive. It is advisable to see a GP if sleepwalking persists or causing distress as they will be able to advise on medication and other therapies that will help improve sleep.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Fefe
    Re: Feeling Too Cold to Sleep
    Thyroid disorders can cause cold and heat intolerances. I know uts why I'm cold all year around.
    12 October 2019
  • Dot
    Re: Is it Possible to Drive a Car While Asleep?
    can fibro cause jerking at night when sleeping?
    11 October 2019
  • Exhausted
    Re: Involuntary Jerking While Asleep, What Could it be?
    My husband has been twitching and jerking at roughly 20 second intervals since before we were…
    17 June 2019
  • Doris
    Re: Feeling Too Cold to Sleep
    Some nights I get so cold even wake up cold. I mean terribly cold to the bone. Can’t get warm even with covers etc. what could be…
    22 April 2019
  • Diane
    Re: Feeling Too Cold to Sleep
    My solution for being cold was an electric mattress cover. Turn on about an hour before bedtime, then shut off. If I go to bed cold, I…
    12 April 2019
  • George S
    Re: Feeling Too Cold to Sleep
    I have the same problem as Adrienne (who commented above) and I have been through a series of medical tests and procedures with no…
    2 April 2019
  • Susy
    Re: Dehydration and Insomnia
    This is interesting! I have found that if I do not drink enough water , at least 1,5 liters during the day, I cannot go to sleep. I…
    26 March 2019
  • julie
    Re: Coughing and Sleep Loss
    Hi I had a cold on Sunday, it started with hit and cold feeling changing every hour, I started taking paracetamol fir it. Before going to…
    14 March 2019
  • Adrienne
    Re: Feeling Too Cold to Sleep
    Why do i get cold at nights? While in day I'm normal? It's been 1 week now after my first encounter about this and I'm worried. Last…
    5 March 2019
  • Ukung
    Re: Feeling Too Cold to Sleep
    While sleeping I feel extreme cold and need two three blankets. My husband, who is on insulin, swets. How can I get rid of this? While…
    15 February 2019