known as somnambulism, sleepwalking is a condition where a person walks or
moves around as if they are awake, when they are actually asleep. Sleepwalkers
may perform a variety of activities while asleep, including getting dressed,
going to the bathroom, eating, or moving furniture.
condition most commonly occurs in children. Because sleepwalking can lead to
falls and injuries, seeking treatment and taking safety measures around your
home are vital if you or someone you live with experiences this behavior.
What Causes Sleepwalking?
can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as restless leg
syndrome, obstructive sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or migraine
headaches. Your doctor may wish to test you for these treatable conditions.
does have a genetic link. If your parents have a history of sleepwalking,
chances are you may sleepwalk as well.
rare cases, certain medications can cause sleepwalking. These include the sleep
medication zolpidem, known by the brand names Ambien and Edluar, as well as
What Are the Symptoms of
most commonly occurs in children ages 4 to 8. It’s most likely to take place
during deep nonrapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and early in the night — about
one to two hours after going to sleep.
can vary from person to person, but may include sitting up in bed and opening
and closing your eyes, having a glazed-over or glassy expression in your eyes, walking
around your home performing everyday activities, such as turning the lights on
or off, or speaking or moving in a way that does not make sense.
to the National Sleep
Foundation, you can and should awaken a
sleepwalker while they’re sleepwalking. Wake them gently so as not to startle them.
However, a sleepwalking person is typically difficult to wake and will at first
be confused about where they are. Gently lead the individual back to their bed.
sleepwalkers have no recollection of their sleepwalking episodes.
doesn’t typically occur during a nap because the sleep achieved isn’t deep
How Is Sleepwalking
isn’t always a cause for concern. Most children grow out of it. However, if
your sleepwalking has led to injury or if you frequently experience several
sleepwalking episodes in a row, you may want to see a doctor to rule out any
potential medical conditions that may be causing the problem.
a sleep diary to help you prepare for your appointment. You can write down the foods
or drinks you consumed before sleeping, how long you slept, and any other
symptoms you experienced while sleepwalking.
you may not be aware of the full extent of your sleepwalking symptoms, talk to
others in your household about your sleepwalking patterns. Ask them to describe
your symptoms, and record these in your sleep diary as well.
your doctor suspects that you may have a sleep disorder, they may recommend you
undergo a sleep study. This involves sleep specialists monitoring your brain
waves, heart rhythms, and other vital signs while you’re asleep. This
information can help your doctor diagnose any potential sleep disorders.
What Are the Treatment
Options for Sleepwalking?
and other medical treatments for sleepwalking typically aren’t necessary. If
you have a child who is prone to sleepwalking, you can gently redirect them
back to bed.
the underlying medical condition causing sleepwalking, such as restless leg
syndrome, may help minimize sleepwalking episodes. This is why you may want to
see your doctor if sleepwalking is a persistent issue. You’ll want to ensure
that there’s no underlying medical issue causing the problem.
you’re not as aware of your surroundings when you’re asleep, you risk injuring
yourself, particularly by tripping and falling. If you’re prone to
sleepwalking, you may need to evaluate your home for potential hazards that
could lead to tripping. This includes taping electrical cords against the wall,
locking doors and windows before going to bed, and keeping furniture out of any
pathways. If you have an upstairs bedroom, you also may need to gate off your
stairs to prevent falling down them.
your sleepwalking continues, medications such as benzodiazepines or
antidepressants may help to reduce sleepwalking episodes. Benzodiazepines are
medications that commonly treat anxiety, but they have also been found useful
in treating sleep disorders as well. Clonazepam (Klonopin) and diazepam
(Valium), in particular, are useful in reducing sleepwalking episodes.
Antidepressants and benzodiazepines may both help reduce an individual’s stress
and anxiety —factors that increase the likelihood of sleepwalking.
an alternative therapy, is helpful to some sleepwalking patients. Hypnosis
involves bringing an individual into a very relaxed and focused state of mind.
Then the therapist will make healthy suggestions tailored to the individual’s
medical issue. The belief is that these suggestions will sink into the
individual’s consciousness in a deeper, more meaningful way because they are
more open to receiving them.
How Can I Prevent
factors seem to decrease the likelihood that a sleepwalking episode will occur.
These include lifestyle changes, such as minimizing stress, anxiety, or
conflict. Doing something that relaxes you before going to sleep, such as
reading a book, listening to music, or taking a warm bath, may help reduce your
chances of a sleepwalking episode.
exhaustion can also lead to sleepwalking. Making every effort to get enough
sleep at night can help. It may help to make a sleep schedule (going to bed and
waking at the same time) a priority. Also, avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol
before going to bed. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that can
actually trigger sleepwalking.