If you're a sleep stalker, this may sound familiar: You wake up in the morning, and feel unusually tired. You check on your social media accounts, and realize that someone used your profile to cause all kinds of mayhem! Was it a hacker?!
Actually, you might be the culprit if you suffer from a sleep disorder. Sleep-stalking is difficult to treat, but you can prevent it to some degree. It can also be managed with good sleep hygiene.
What Is Sleep-Stalking?
You have probably heard of sleep-walking or sleep-talking but not sleep-stalking. However, it is actually quite similar. Sleep-stalking refers to behaviors in which you communicate with other people, possibly by phone but often through email or on social media, without any recollection of the transaction. Sleep-stalking can be an obvious problem for a lot of people, since you don't have control over what you say or do while you are asleep. No one wants to wake up and discover that they sent the boss an email saying exactly how they felt about last week’s dismal performance review.
How Does Sleep-Stalking Compare to Sleep-Walking?
The things that people do while they are asleep, that are not specifically related to the sleep itself, are known as parasomnia. These behaviors can include:
- sleep eating
- having sex while sleeping
Some people will actually leave the house, get into the car and drive some distance before they realize what is going on. This illustrates the risks presented by parasomnia.
What Causes Sleep-Stalking?
Many people who suffer from parasomnias like sleep-stalking start with sleep-related problems in early childhood. If you remember waking up in a completely different place than your bed as a child, like a closet or another bedroom, then you should be on the alert for the presence of other parasomniac behaviors as an adult.
Although some people simply have this issue throughout their lifetime, it can be exacerbated by a number of factors. Sleep deprivation, sleeping under the influence of alcohol or sedating drugs like Ambien, illnesses that cause a fever, and poor sleep hygiene are all known to trigger parasomniac episodes. Ask your doctor to help you pinpoint possible causes, so that you can see how you might create a care plan to prevent them.
How Is Parasomnia Managed?
Treating sleep-stalking is more about prevention and management than it is about medications or therapies. People who engage in parasomniac behaviors on a regular basis may decide to install alarm systems or sensors that will wake them up if they leave the house or open the fridge to eat everything inside. For most people, the best defense is to make sure that they have plenty of time for good quality sleep, and a solid sleep routine that they follow every night. Confirm that your bed is comfortable, but not too warm. Keep lights dim in the late evening. Avoid things that create artificial alertness, like the blue screen of your smartphone or that evening cup of coffee. Minimize your use of sedatives for sleep, and hit the sack a little early if needed.
And there's always the stragegy of placing (hiding) your laptop or phone in a unfamiliar place so you have difficulty finding them while asleep.
Combatting parasomniac behaviors, such as sleep-stalking, involves taking care of your sleep hygiene and being able to forgive yourself for actions you take while sleeping. With a better understanding of the condition, you can take steps to prevent it from wreaking havoc in your life.