We all have heard about sleepwalkers and have even associated it with macabre behavior. The disorder isn't rare but is more common among children. It occurs during slow wave sleep stage, in a state of low consciousness, where the person performs activities they usually perform during a state of full consciousness. One hour or so after falling asleep is the most common time for its occurrence and can last for several minutes. If you wake up in your pajamas at night and find yourself out of bed, then you probably are a somnambulist. It could be quite disorienting to be one or to be living with one. But why does this disorder happen and what does it mean to people who suffer from it? Let's answer some of the most common questions asked about sleepwalking.
Despite its name, sleepwalking involves more than just walking in your sleep. The activities can be as simple as sitting down, walking to the bathroom or even doing household chores. These activities are benign and may cause little concern. However, some activities could be hazardous, not just to the walker but other people. Talking, shouting, and sudden bolting from the bed and running away are also common among sleepwalkers. Some even begin their daily chores without being conscious that it is still night-time. Others can eat, drive, and do household chores. Unusual behaviors can include moving furniture, urinating in the wrong places, and cooking. Some activities can indeed be hazardous to both sleepwalkers and the people around them.
Children are the ones most affected by sleepwalking, particularly those who experience bedwetting or those who have sleep apnea. But the disorder doesn't exclude adults. There are also many sleepwalkers among us grown-ups. It would be interesting to learn why some people are more susceptible to this condition than others. Does the disorder run in the family? Is it genetics? Just food for thought, if you have an immediate relative who walks in the night, there is a high probability that you may be or become a somnambulist yourself.
Could the reason be anything genetics or the environment? Do these contribute to the disorder? For one, lifestyle can be a factor. Those who are under constant stress and aren't having enough sleep can become candidates for somnambulism. So are those who imbibe a lot of alcohol before bedtime. The odds for somnambulism can increase due to medical conditions too. Even people who take too many medications to treat different illnesses can become likely members of the sleepwalking club.
What happens when we wake up a somnambulist? That part where they are supposed to die through a seizure or a heart attack is a myth. As experts have said, the chances of death by waking up are infinitesimal. What will most likely to take place is finding the subject startled, confused or disoriented when brought back to real life. Perhaps, the worse that can happen is the subject becoming violent and may hurt people around unintentionally. But leaving somnambulist alone isn't advisable as there is a chance of hurting themselves or others around them. A sensible recommendation is not to wake the subjects. Instead, turn them around and lead them back to their beds. In case of resistance, just stay with the person until they become more manageable. Be sure they stay clear of any harmful objects. If there is no other recourse but to wake them up, make a thunderous noise.
Sleepwalking signs are apparent enough. Walking, sitting on the bed, and talking at times are common symptoms. Sleepers won't communicate with people when they are spoken to and will always have that dazed, glassy expression on their faces. They tend to be clumsy and will act confused and disoriented when awakened.
Another myth is that sleepwalkers walk with closed eyes and have their arms outstretched. That's just in the movies. But they do engage in activities with open eyes as they would need so to travel through their surroundings. Although involved, the sleepers are not aware of their actions and won't remember anything when they wake up the following morning.
Since the disorder doesn't happen that often, treat it as a minor problem. However, especially for children, some activities during their episodes could be very hazardous. Walking downstairs or climbing a window is some possibilities. In case the disorder becomes dangerous, there are accredited specialists who can assist.
As mentioned earlier, sleepwalking is a minor inconvenience. But if the episodes start happening more than once a week, you may need some specialist assistance. The occurrences can become hazardous and may cause injuries to the subjects as well as the people around them. Frequent sleepwalking can also cause significant sleep disruption which may lead to further problems. Frequent walkers may eventually find themselves feeling sleepy and tired during the daytime. They'll have difficulty going to sleep at night and experience signs of depression and anxiety. The more the subjects sleepwalk, the odds of getting hurt increases. Nosebleeds, bruises, and fractures are familiar with frequent sleepwalkers.
There are no specific treatments required, especially where children are involved. Having a safer environment is the best recommendation for parents of sleepwalking children. That way, they don't get hurt during their episodes. The kids usually outgrow the disorder, but in case they still have it by their teenage years, it's best to consult a physician. For adults, treatment for sleepwalking may not be essential unless their episodes lead to unusual and unfavorable behaviors. In such cases, treatment is highly advisable. The use of medications can sometimes decrease the occurrences of sleepwalking.
Although the disorder can involve some health risks, most doctors consider it as a reasonably harmless condition that will tend to disappear in time. It may be a cause to worry for parents with younger kids, but there are things that they can do to lessen the risk that a member of the family becomes a sleepwalker. The preventive suggestions are highly essential to get relief from it. First, make sure to get enough sleep. Always bear in mind that fatigue can result in sleepwalking. Create a bedtime routine for your family. Find ways to unwind after your hectic day as this will reduce sleepwalking-triggering stress. Try to look for patterns. Make notes on sleepwalking episodes. You may be able to figure out from the records if certain things are causing sleepwalking.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.