What Is Sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking is a common sleep disorder wherein an individual engages in activities that are normally associated with wakefulness. As the term suggests, sleepwalking usually has a sufferer goes through walking even while sleeping or in a sleep-like state. It can also include some other activities such as cleaning, reading and other activities while sleeping. Sleepwalkers usually are not conscious of what they are doing, having no recollection of the activities that they may have done while in their sleep-like state.

What causes sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking has long been mistakenly attributed to people who are merely acting out physical movements within their dreams. But studies have shown that sleepwalking usually occurs early in the stage of sleep, before a person experiences REM (rapid eye movement) sleep which is also considered as the "dream stage".

There are different factors that may bring about sleepwalking in people. One of them may be genetic in nature. Sleepwalking seem to occur more frequently among twins and may also be ten times more likely to happen to an individual who may have a relative or kin known to have a history of sleepwalking. Certain physiologic factors may also bring about sleepwalking. This may explain why there is an increased frequency of sleepwalking in children which experience longer and deeper slow wave sleep. In women, conditions such as pregnancy and menstruation may also help increase the instances of sleepwalking.

There are also some environmental factors that may increase the incidence of sleepwalking. Sleep deprivation and stress also comes as factors that may increase sleepwalking in people. Alcohol intoxication, magnesium deficiency may also trigger sleepwalking. Certain drugs such as sedatives, stimulants, drugs used to treat psychosis as well as some minor tranquilizers may also cause sleepwalking.

Who gets sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking symptoms may range from episodes of walking quietly around a room to running about in an agitated state, as if trying to escape. Sleepwalkers usually have their eyes open but with a glassy look, staring in one direction while walking. Sleepwalkers also tend to respond unconsciously upon questioning. Their usual response would be slow or absent. The sleepwalker may not have any recollection of the event if they return to their beds without being awakened.

How it is treated?

The treatment for sleepwalking would be to determine the conditions that bring it about and try to correct it. As most sleepwalking can be a sign of lack of sleep, stress, intense emotional problems and fever, seeking to resolve these conditions and the incidence of sleepwalking would usually disappear. There is no medical treatment necessary for sleepwalking since it rarely indicates the presence of serious medical and psychiatric problems.