IF YOU'VE EVER found yourself walking in your sleep or someone else has told you that you sleepwalk, you’ll undoubtedly want to know more about your nighttime wanderings. In this article, we take a closer look at walking while sleeping, and discover why more than 8.4 million Americans sleepwalk each year.
What is Sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking, also known officially as somnambulism, is considered as a parasomnia, which is a term for undesired happenings that occur when you sleep. As the name suggests, sleepwalking is when you get up from the bed and walk around even though you are still sleeping.
That being said, affected individuals don’t always just walk in their sleep. Some may jump up quickly from their beds and run off as if they’re being pursued. Others may sit up in bed for some minutes, looking around them in a state of confusion.
It’s also possible to shout or to talk while you're sleepwalking. Additionally, your eyes will almost always be open, although they usually have a glazed appearance. Often, sleepwalkers do inappropriate things while on their nighttime travels. These actions can seem strange, crude, and are often done in the wrong place entirely. For example, urinating on a nightstand or emptying the trash can into the bathtub. Sleepwalkers are also sometimes violent and hostile.
Some sleepwalkers have been known to drive off in their cars while in this state, although this is rare. Others may display inappropriate sexual behaviors as they are completely unaware of the environment around them. Some people like to eat when sleepwalking. Many adults hallucinate or dream during this time.
Waking up a sleepwalker can be very difficult. It can also be very confusing for the individual in question. Ordinarily, the sleepwalker often has no memory at all of the event. Some people can recall scraps of what occurred. Less often, they’ll remember everything with clarity.
It can be dangerous to wake someone who is sleepwalking, even if they seem subdued and passive. This is due to the potential of the person becoming violent. This is particularly prevalent in men.
Who Does Sleepwalking Affect?
Sleepwalking can affect anyone from any walk of life. It often runs in families, with identical twins having a higher likelihood of sleepwalking. In children, it’s considered to be quite a normal part of their early sleep pattern. However, it’s crucial to secure your home if your child is walking during their sleep. They may also suffer from night terrors which can be upsetting for the whole family.
The following can also be reasons for sleepwalking:
- Being drunk
- Taking certain drugs
- Feeling stressed
- Being sleep deprived
You may also find your sleepwalking is related to a medical condition, such as:
- Restless leg syndrome
- Heart rhythm problem
- Nighttime seizures
- Psychiatric disorders
- Obstructive sleep apnea, and more
How Is Sleepwalking Treated?
There are a number of measures you can take to stop yourself from sleepwalking. These include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Avoiding anything too stimulating before sleep
- Practicing relaxation and/or meditation
Safety-wise, it’s a good idea to make your room and your home as hazard- and trip-free as possible. Remember to lock all doors and windows every night too.
If you feel you need medical help, speak with your doctor about finding out whether you’re suffering from an underlying medical condition. You may need to take medication to stop your sleepwalking to avoid getting injured and/or if the sleepwalking is severely disrupting your life.
Medications you may be prescribed include clonazepam, tricyclic antidepressants or benzodiazepines.
If you’ve been waking up in some strange places around your home and feel you may be sleepwalking, it’s time to seek help.