Do you sleep walk, or know someone who does?
Sleep walking is more common than you think. It has been estimated that 8.4 million people sleep walk in the U.S. alone. But what causes it, and how can you stop it?
Here we break down all the information you need to know.
What is Sleep Walking?
In order to determine the reasons behind sleep walking, we first need to know what it is.
Sleep walking is known as somnambulism. It is a state of parasomnia, where a number of undesired events can happen while sleeping.
While, in the simplest terms, it’s when you walk around while you’re still asleep, it can also involve other actions, such as sitting up in bed and looking around or running instead of walking.
In most cases, you may find your eyes are open and have a confused, “glassy” look to them.
Why Do People Sleep Walk ?
Sleep walking is more common in children and can equally affect both boys and girls. It can start as soon as a child is able to walk.
Although it is rare, it is still possible for this to occur at any time during your adult life.
There is a strong genetic link with sleep walking; your chance of having it can double if one of your parents have ever had these episodes in their childhood or adult life.
Causes of Sleep Walking
Some of the causes of sleep walking can include:
- Hyperthyroidism (overproduction of thyroid hormones)
- Sleep deprivation
- Migraine headaches
- Head injury
- Bloated stomach
- Physical or emotional stress
- Sleep-related disorders or events
- Sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings
- Noise or light
- Fevers, especially for children
How Often Can You Sleep Walk?
Sleepwalking usually occurs in the first third of a night’s sleep or during other long sleep periods.
It can also occur during a daytime nap, but this is much rarer.
Episodes of sleep walking can vary; they can either occur very often or infrequently. In some cases, episodes can happen multiple times a night for a few nights in a row.
Is It Normal to Sleep Walk?
Sleep walking is known to be a normal part of a child’s early sleep pattern.
A child who has calmer episodes may walk quietly to their parent’s bedroom or to a night light for comfort.
It can also be a symptom from any of the above causes, so it is not something you should be alarmed about unless you are at immediate risk of harming yourself or others when having an episode.
What Can Sleep Walking Include?
Sleep walking is different for everyone as it depends on the individual.
You find that you are talking and shouting as you walk. In many cases, it can also involve actions that are strange and in the wrong place. For example, urinating in a trash can or moving your furniture around.
Some people may even attempt to climb out of a window. More extreme episodes can also result in hostile and violent behavior.
When you sleep walk, you might start routine daily actions that are not normally done at night.
Symptoms of Sleep Walking
Sleep walking most commonly happens when you’re in a deep sleep, but can take place during lighter periods.
In the latter case, you’re more likely to be woken up by noises or interactions.
In addition to walking during sleep, other symptoms can include:
- Sleep talking
- Little or no memory of the event
- Difficulty waking up from an episode
- Inappropriate behavior such as urinating in closets, waste bins, etc.
- Screaming (this is usually when sleepwalking occurs in combination with sleep terrors)
- Violent behavior
The video below explains more on how sleep walking works.
How to Stop Sleep Walking
The obvious way to bring sleep walking to a halt is to wake the person up.
It can be very hard to accomplish this, however, and they’ll be very confused if you do manage it. This is usually because they have no memory of the event and are not aware of what they were or had been doing.
It is important to know that if you do attempt to wake someone up from sleep walking, they may attack you. This is a result of them mistaking you for a character in a nightmare or an instinctual fight-or-flight reaction to unfamiliar surroundings.
Because of this, it may be wisest to let the person wake up by themselves. This individual may return to bed and immediately resume normal sleep.
Treatment for Sleepwalking
There is no specific treatment for sleep walking. In many cases, you can treat it by improving your general sleep hygiene.
For some adults, another treatment can be through hypnosis. There have been many recorded cases of successful hypnosis treatments that have eliminated sleep walking entirely for the individual.
Another treatment available is pharmacological therapies such as sedative-hypnotics or antidepressants.
Sleep walking is common in children and is usually outgrown over time.
However, if your symptoms persist and you are concerned about your behavior, you need to consult your doctor or psychiatrist. They can help you decide on the best treatment.
Do you have any tips on dealing with sleep walking?