In general, sleepwalking is considered to be a sleep disorder in which a person gets up from bed without waking up and becomes mobile while remaining technically asleep. This usually occurs during the deepest stages of sleep and the sleepwalker may not even be woken up after repeated attempts.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sleepwalking?
The most obvious symptom of sleepwalking is when a person gets up and begins walking throughout their home. In some cases, this walking may be slow and random, with no particular intent.
In other cases, sleepwalking may involve other activities such as going to the refrigerator, cooking, or even leaving the house. It is not unusual for children to sleepwalk and attempt to leave the home, which is obviously potentially very dangerous.
If you live with a sleepwalker, it is often very difficult to determine if someone is sleepwalking or if they are just being unresponsive to you. You may attempt to get the attention of the sleepwalker, only to realize that they are in deep sleep in spite of the fact that they are walking around.
Their eyes will be open and usually very glassy, and they may not be able to make proper eye contact with you. They will usually not interact with you, though sometimes some sleepwalkers will have plenty to say on their own.
One thing that is similar in almost all cases of sleepwalking is that the person has no recollection of doing it. You may think that they are faking it, or that they are pretending that they don’t remember because they are embarrassed by their behavior. In reality, they would not remember their sleepwalking because it actually occurred during their sleep.
What Causes Sleepwalking?
If you have a child in your household who is a sleepwalker, then it may surprise you to find out that it is often a genetic issue. You may have been prone to sleepwalking as a child, too, so it might be worth talking to your parents to see if they remember you sleepwalking as a child.
Another very common cause of sleepwalking is disrupted or deprived sleep. When a person does not have a normal sleep schedule or they are constantly disrupted from their sleep, such as a parent might be with a newborn baby, they are more prone to sleepwalking. People who are under a great deal of stress or who travel a lot and are constantly suffering from jet lag will also begin sleepwalking more often.
What About Sleep Medications?
Interestingly enough, most sleep medications may end up working against you in terms of creating quality sleep. Although they may be able to put you to sleep at a faster rate, the quality of sleep is usually not as deep as what you desire. Therefore, you may end up sleepwalking again.
Many sedative, hypnotic, and antihistamines such as allergy medications can cause sleepwalking in both adults and children as well. In many cases, simply cutting back on those medications or not using them at night will stop your sleepwalking.
The use of alcohol as a sedative, especially in the evening, can certainly result in sleepwalking. Alcohol is commonly used as a way for adults to fall asleep quicker, but it does not create quality sleep and can result in a variety of problems such as sleepwalking.
Can Other Health Problems Cause This Problem?
In addition to lack of sleep, sedatives, stress, and other causes, there are also other underlying health conditions that can be responsible for sleepwalking including abnormal heart rhythms, fever, acid reflux or other gastrointestinal issues, asthma, allergies, and seizures.
People who suffer from sleep apnea will also be more prone to sleepwalking simply because they are constantly being disturbed throughout the night with their lack of breathing.
Finally, sleepwalking is often a sign of a deeper psychiatric disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder or anxiety attacks, or even multiple personality disorder. If you suffer from sleepwalking on a regular basis, then this is something that you should definitely talk to your doctor about.
While this may be amusing to those in your household when you get up in the middle of the night and walk around, it is actually potentially dangerous to you and to others. By addressing your sleepwalking as soon as possible, you will be on the right track to getting a good night’s sleep.
(Last Updated 4 June 2013)