All about Sleepwalking

Have you ever woken up on the couch with the lights on when you for sure fell asleep in your bed?

Or maybe you’ve witnessed your roommate emerge from his or her bedroom with glazed eyes, mumble and wander aimlessly…but possess no recollection of the bizarre encounter the next morning?  You – or your roommate – may be one of the 2.5% of adults suffering from sleepwalking.

So what is this mystical thing? Find out below. 

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What is it?

Sleepwalking is a fairly common parasomnia, a family of sleep disorders that involve undesired events during sleep. Known among sleep specialists as somnambulism, sleepwalking is a behavioral disorder that involves performing complex behaviours during a state of low consciousness that one normally performs with full consciousness. It is more common among children (an estimated 2-14% of children sleepwalk). Someone who is sleepwalking is not quite asleep and not quite awake. Brain scan studies show that sleepwalking occurs primarily during slow wave (“deep”) sleep, which is most abundant during the first half of the night. Sleepwalkers may seem like they are partially awake, often with a “glassy” look in their eyes, but it is likely that they will not remember any sleepwalking episodes. The duration of a sleepwalking episode may last a few seconds up to about 30 minutes.

What causes it?

Sleepwalking tends to cluster in families, suggesting a genetic link. The causes of sleepwalking are not completely understood, but studies have shown that you are more likely to sleepwalk if you are sleep deprived, drinking alcohol, using sedative agents or taking certain medications. It is not usually linked to other psychological problems, but a medical disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea may contribute to sleepwalking. 

How do you alleviate it?

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for sleepwalking. In many cases, simply improving your sleep habits may eliminate the problem. If you or someone in your home is a sleepwalker, it is important to create a safe environment that decreases the probability of injuries. For example, lock doors and windows, use gates across stairs, make sure the floor around the bed is clear and avoid bunk beds.

How do you deal with a partner who sleepwalks?

There is a myth that you should never wake a sleepwalker, but in fact, it can be quite dangerous to not wake them. Try to gently direct the sleepwalker back to bed and be aware that he or she may become aggressive (even if that is not normally his or her personality). Remember that the sleepwalker will likely be very confused upon awakening or may have no memory at all of the event. Good luck with your sleep-walkers! 

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Sofia HellstromFirst