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Sleepwalking Disorder

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sleepwalking Disorder

There are many people among us who have a sleepwalking disorder, with most of them not aware that they have it if another weren't to notice this problem. Learn about what this disorder is, and what can be done to help the situation...
SleepHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
My sister had a problem of sleepwalking, where I as a child was never aware of this kind of behavior. Although quite a recurring episode, my sister would open windows and play with the bedroom lights, disturbing another sister of mine midway through the night. Ignoring her while she was at it was common apparently, where my mom once caught her playing with knives! It can be a very dangerous time to have to deal with kids / adults walking around the house open to the chance of injuring themselves. Adults like children, also go through a period in their lives where sleepwalking becomes a common phenomenon.

It may seem scary to digest at first, especially if you bear witness to someone walking dazed down a dark corridor, fast asleep and unaware of their actions. There are certain sleep cycles that we as humans go through, one being NREM or non-rapid eye movement and the other REM or rapid eye movement. One particular cycle is where we're deep in slumber not experiencing dreams, where snooze time is sound and uninterrupted (NREM). Hindered sleep with vivid or vague dreams, or the surge of hormones that course through us, is what causes us to experience another cycle's effects (REM).

When the body goes through these cyclic periods while asleep, they are done in 5 cycles that take us from sound sleeps to those that have dreams as a part of the cycle. Sleepwalking happens during stages 3 and 4, where a person can wake up from bed and walk around the house, or even leave home to aimlessly perform activities. Some people have been known to do strange things like moving furniture around or even sitting in their cars and driving! It is important to have these taken up with a doctor, to avoid injury and to also alleviate the root cause of the problem.

Sleepwalking Disorder Causes

The causes of this disorder are those that need to be snuffed wherever they can be helped.
  • Hormonal changes that take place like when one is pregnant or in their adolescent stage.
  • Use of antianxiety drugs.
  • Stress can lead up to this.
  • Use of antiarrhythmic heart drugs and anti-seizure medicines.
  • Anxiety
  • Alcohol abuse can lead to sleepwalking, since it is one of many problems that affect the nervous system. Other factors like falling ill, undergoing emotional stress or not getting enough sleep can lead to sleepwalking.
  • One's genetics play a major role in sleepwalkers, where this can be passed on within the family line.
  • Reaction to drugs.
  • Depression
Sleepwalking Disorder Symptoms

The symptoms need to be addressed, with the child / person taken in for a sleepwalking disorder diagnosis to find out how to better the condition or deal with sleepwalking. Mind you, but the symptoms of sleepwalking shouldn't be confused with other sleep problems.
  • Those who walk in their sleep will take on blank, glassy looks, seeing right past you as they walk on by.
  • Verbal talk is incoherent and most of it sounds more like gibberish than logically explained sentences.
  • Actions can be non purposeful like dressing/undressing, shifting around things in the house, running around like as if they're being chased, using the bathroom and so on.
  • They will trip and fall over, or behave in a foolish fashion that doesn't look coordinated.
  • Eyes may sometimes be open or closed while the person/child sleepwalks.
  • Not able to comprehend the situation when being awoken.
  • Can sometimes remain seated upright in bed, while still being fast asleep.
  • Not able to remember the past events of the sleepwalking episode.
Sleepwalking Disorder Treatment

There are ways on how you can control the sleepwalking recurrences, if they prove to be quite bothersome especially if an adult hasn't grown out of it. Children may grow up and never have to deal with its effects, where you can enforce some precautionary measures in both children's and adult's cases.

Medication
There are medicines that can help lessen the frequency of how many times a sleepwalker awakens. These medicines are given upon being prescribed - Estazolam, Clonazepam and Trazodone. You can also give them tricyclic antidepressants, and discontinue the use of these medicines once the sleepwalking stops completely. If they do happen again after you've ceased to give them these medicines, it is only as a withdrawal effect that these occur. Later on the chances of overcoming this disorder are hopeful.

Precautionary Measures
If all else fails, those who live with sleepwalkers can set up a protected area around the bedroom area where they cannot walk past. Locking the doors would also help to keep them inside. Put up a safe fence around staircases to avoid injuries. Give them some sleep inducing drinks like a warm glass of milk or a cup of hot cocoa before they head to bed.

Sleepwalking can be helped in most cases where children and adults can move past this time in their lives. Have a doctor suggest ways on how to take care of this, and what you can do to reduce the number of episodes.