Sleep Walking

Sleep Walking – Here’s Exactly Why Up To 15% Of The Population Sleepwalks

Article at a Glance:

Sleep Walking – Sleepwalking is defined as the completion of a complex activity or physically walking while not fully awake.

  • Anyone can start sleepwalking at any age.
  • It’s estimated that 1 in 5 children in the UK will sleepwalk.
  • The top triggers that cause sleepwalking are – not enough sleep, stress, anxiety, consuming too much alcohol, some prescription medication, being startled by a loud sound.

Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a type of sleep disorder that starts while you are in a deep sleep and either walk or perform complex behaviors while asleep. Sleepwalking in children occurs more often when compared to adults. Those who are sleep deprived are at risk of sleep walking. Since the sleepwalker is usually asleep throughout the episode, you may have difficulty waking them up, and they won’t recall their experience.

Walking is not the only activity that a person may experience. They may also do complex behaviors such as sitting up in bed, going out of the house, and even traveling. Many assume that a sleepwalker should be left alone, but this isn’t so, as they may find themselves in dangerous situations.

Common Symptoms of Sleepwalking

Common Symptoms of Sleepwalking

Sleep walking is not limited to walking during sleep. If you are wondering what other symptoms are associated with sleepwalking, here are a few you should note.

  • A dazed look. This means that their eyes are open, but they do not really see you or their surroundings as they would when they are wide awake.
  • Doesn’t give any response when spoken to.
  • Sitting up in bed and doing repetitive movements such as playing with their pajamas or rubbing eyes.
  • Sleep talking
  • Clumsiness
  • Urinating in unexpected places

These are just a few examples of symptoms of people who sleepwalk. If you or someone you know exhibit these symptoms, you might want to look for treatment to avoid getting into accidents.

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Understanding Sleepwalking

Understanding Sleepwalking

“Sleepwalk” is a type of sleep disorder where the person starts to walk or perform various activities while they are still asleep. They are not aware of their nighttime activities come morning. Activities may involve climbing out of the window, walking around the house, and even stepping outside as if they are awake. A sleepwalker may have his or her eyes open throughout their walk, hence it is easy to assume that the person is awake.

When does sleepwalking occur? 

There are two main stages of sleep that we go through every night. These are REM sleep or rapid eye movement, and non-rem sleep. Typically sleepwalking occurs when you are in the NREM sleep stage. It is during this sleep stage where your brain waves have slowed down. Your brain is inactive and quiet, but your body is in the active phase. You may notice that you woke up in a different position or location.

Who is the most likely to experience sleep walking?

Children around the ages of 4 and 8 are most susceptible to sleepwalk, especially those who have sleep terrors. They will outgrow this disorder by the time they reach the age of 12. Is this disorder limited to kids only? No, there is a small percentage of adults who sleepwalk too.

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What Causes a Person to Sleepwalk

What Causes a Person to Sleepwalk?

You’re probably wondering what causes you to sleepwalk in the first place? A sleepwalker usually gets up as they enter the non-rem sleep stage. Night terrors may accompany this condition which can worsen the effects. What causes a person to sleepwalk?

Here are a few factors that may trigger this parasomnia disorder.

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Fever

It is also possible that this condition is triggered by other factors such as:

  • Intake of certain medications like hypnotics, sedatives, and others that treat certain psychiatric conditions.
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Alcohol and substance use
  • GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Sleep-disordered breathing like obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring
  • Child trauma
  • Migraine headaches

What other factors may contribute to this condition both in children and in adults?

Age. Sleepwalking is more likely to occur in children compared to adults. However, this doesn’t mean that adults will not experience this sleep disorder because there may be triggers that cause sleepwalking in adults to occur.

Genetics. Another factor that may increase the likelihood that you may have a sleepwalking child is genetics. If one or both parents have sleep disorders, such as sleepwalking, there is a greater chance that their child will have the same condition as well.

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How to Diagnose Sleepwalking​

How to Diagnose Sleepwalking

Consulting a sleep specialist to determine if you are a sleepwalker may not be necessary, especially when you or your partner have noticed this behavior. If you are alone and find yourself waking up in different locations, it would be a good idea to seek treatment by a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders. It’s important to seek possible treatments to ensure your safety.

Your doctor will require you to undergo a psychological or physical exam to rule out any possible physical conditions that are causing your sleepwalking, such as a REM-sleep behavior disorder or nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy. It is also possible that a sleep study also referred to as polysomnogram, will be conducted. In this examination, the patient will need to spend the night in a sleep lab, so that sleep technicians will be able to monitor and take measurements of your sleep habits and brain activity, for better diagnosis.

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Treatments for Sleepwalking

Treatments for Sleepwalking

Now that you know what causes you to sleepwalk, you’re probably wondering how to treat this disorder, so you will be able to enjoy a good night’s sleep. The good news is that several treatments can be used to reduce the occurrence of sleepwalking in children and in adults. Here are a few possible treatments for this disorder.

Sleep hygiene

No single treatment can be used to effectively to relieve this disorder. Thus, a multi-prong approach can be tried. You can start with practicing good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene usually involves incorporating a relaxing routine prior to bedtime such as taking a warm bath, doing meditation, and turning off your electrical gadgets. These steps will help you feel more relaxed, so you can get a restful night’s sleep. Keep in mind that sleep deprivation or suffering from constantly interrupted sleep may trigger adult sleepwalking.

Treat sleep disorders

What causes you to sleepwalk?” It may be a sleep disorder such as apnea. Medical disorders should be treated as soon as possible. Sleep apnea is when snoring becomes excessive at night to the point that your breathing hitches. Although you don’t wake up, this affects the quality of your sleep. Not only will this make you feel sleepy upon waking in the morning, but it can also trigger other health issues like sleepwalking, anxiety, and stress.

Sleep medicine

Your doctor may prescribe for you pharmacological therapies. You may be given sleep medicine to address your sleeping issues. This can include hypnotics, sedatives, or anti-depressants depending on your diagnosis.

Hypnosis

Although the jury is still out when it comes to the efficacy of hypnosis, this treatment may be used as a support to put you in a calm and relaxed state of mind where falling asleep will be easier to do.

Although some may dismiss sleepwalking as a harmless sleep disorder, you are putting yourself at risk if you don’t seek treatment. Frequent sleepwalking can lead to tripping and falling. Other downsides to no treatment include insomnia, fatigue, depression, daytime sleepiness, and an overall poorer quality of life.

Although some may dismiss sleepwalking as a harmless sleep disorder, you are putting yourself at risk if you don’t seek treatment. Frequent sleepwalking can lead to tripping and falling. Other downsides to no treatment include insomnia, fatigue, depression, daytime sleepiness, and an overall poorer quality of life.

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Treatments for Sleepwalking

How to Protect a Sleepwalker

If cases of sleepwalking occur within your family, you need to consider their protection first and foremost. It is a myth that if you wake a sleepwalker, you can cause them to have a stroke or heart attack. What can be dangerous is to allow them to continue to sleepwalk. What are some ways of providing protection?

Lock down your house

Since there are sleepwalkers who can climb out the window or walk through the door, it is a good idea to keep them all locked. The lock should be located in an out-of-the-way place so that the sleepwalker doesn’t unlock the door in their sleep.

Get rid of clutters

Make sure that there are no toys, shoes, or any other items lying on the floor that can be a tripping hazard to the sleepwalker. The goal here is to minimize the danger to the person as much as possible as they become active during their slow wave sleep.

Keep your child safe

In the event that your child is sleepwalking, you will need to take extra precautions to ensure their safety. You can start by locking your child’s bedroom window, so they won’t be able to get out.

Hide dangerous objects in your home

Keep all sharp objects locked away. This may sound extreme, but there are a few cases that sleepwalkers end up hurting themselves this way. It’s better to err on the side of caution until you find a remedy.

Install an alarm on their door

Consider installing a bell on the door handle or motion sensors that will trigger when they open the door.

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How to Protect a Sleepwalker​

Natural Treatments for Sleepwalking

It’s good that you are starting with sleep hygiene as a means to combat sleepwalking, but what if you’re still wandering around your home? If this is the case, here are a few natural suggestions for you.

Have more calcium as well as magnesium

Some diets lack important minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Consider adding yogurt, leafy greens, milk, and fortified non-dairy milk to your diet to help increase your calcium intake. Foods such as beans, nuts, whole grains, and seeds can be useful too because they are loaded with magnesium.

Sip some tea

If you are not feeling relaxed when you go to bed, perhaps you need to add some sleep-inducing tea in your sleep hygiene. Herbal teas like lavender, chamomile, and valerian are just a few options to consider as these have been known to be effective in treating insomnia.

Aromatherapy

What else can you do to help you achieve better sleep? If you haven’t explored aromatherapy, now is a good time to do so. Inhaling certain scents such as lavender, frankincense, vetiver, or even clary sage may help you go into a relaxed state. Diffusing essential oils in your bedroom can help you feel relaxed and ready for sleep, and reduce the chances of nighttime wanderings.

Add omega-3

It is possible that your sleep is often disrupted because you are not getting enough omega-3s in your diet. Those who aren’t fond of eating fish may want to change their routine by adding a serving of fish or seafood to their diet at least twice a week.

Sleepwalking may not be harmful, true, but there are instances when the walker gets into trouble because of it. They are accidents waiting to happen, and although it is not really recommended that you wake them up in this state, since they may lash out unexpectedly, you can take precautions to keep them safe in your home.

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