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Understanding the Primary Causes of Somnambulism

Geeta Dhavale Apr 21, 2019
Somnambulism, also known as sleepwalking, is one of the rare sleep disorders which belongs to parasomnia group of sleep disorders. Here we inform you about the causes and treatment for this disorder.
Somnambulism is mostly experienced by children, but there are some statistics that indicate that adults, suffering from mental and psychological disorders or mental problems, also suffer from somnambulism. With increasing cases of mental disorders and deteriorating mental health, experts believe that there will significant rise in sleep disorder patients.
Hence, it is wise to be aware of the symptoms, causes, and treatments for such disorders. Out of all the sleep disorders, sleepwalking is one of the most threatening disorder, as a person suffering from it, unconsciously performs tasks that are generally, and should be, performed during a state of consciousness.
Therefore, there are high chances of accidents and mishaps and hence, diagnosing and treating somnambulism is very important.

Causes of Somnambulism

There is no specific set of symptoms that a somnambulism patient can observe, and the symptoms largely depend on the kind of activities a patient performs during sleepwalking. For example, if person walks for a long time, or gets hurt during sleepwalking, he may suffer from leg pain or pain in the hurt area.
It is less likely that he or she would perceive it as a symptom of sleepwalking, as the patient generally is not able to recall what has happened during the night. So, in such cases, the only symptom that can be observed by people around the patient, is witnessing the patient actually sleepwalking!


In most cases the primary cause of somnambulism is genetics. If the person has a family history of sleepwalking disorders, he or she is most likely to suffer from sleepwalking in childhood as well adulthood. 

Certain Medical Conditions

Many research studies have established the link between certain medical conditions and sleepwalking. The health conditions that contribute to sleepwalking include, asthma experienced only in the night, seizures in the night, sleep apnea, high fever, heart arrhythmia, and gastroesophageal reflux are known to trigger sleepwalking.

Psychiatric Disorders

There are several psychiatric disorders of which sleepwalking can be one of the symptoms. People suffering from psychiatric disorders like, panic attacks, multiple personality disorder, stress disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder are at higher risk of sleepwalking. People suffering from epilepsy can also suffer from sleepwalking.
Abuse or overuse of drugs and alcohol, stressful life, chronic fatigue, lack of sleep, excessive sleeping during day time, consuming sleeping pills, sedatives, and antibiotics without prescription also can trigger sleepwalking. Basically, it is an unhealthy lifestyle which can add and lead to somnambulism.

Somnambulism Treatment

In many cases, which are not severe, simple lifestyle changes can effectively curb sleepwalking. For example, developing a fixed sleeping routine, that is sleeping and waking up at the same time everyday can be of great help. Along with this, having calm, dark, and cool sleeping environment also promotes better sleep, and reduces the chances of sleepwalking.
There is one more thing a patient or his loved ones can do. If you are aware of the usual time when the patient goes sleepwalking, then setting an alarm clock just before that time, and staying awake for half an hour and then going back to sleep, can help train the brain accordingly, which can reduce the occurrences of sleepwalking. 
In mild cases, it is also advisable to make your home or bedroom accident proof. For example, you must remove obstacles and sharp objects from the room so that the risk of injury reduces while sleepwalking. You must also lock doors and balconies if the patient is extra active during sleepwalking. 
It can also help if the patient is prone to go out of the house, or drive while sleeping. Some doctors also advise not to wake up a patient during sleepwalking, and just direct them to the bed without waking them up as they can get confused, frightened, and embarrassed, which can further add to their emotional and mental problems.
If the cause of somnambulism is stress or anxiety, then a patient is advised to follow relaxation methods, such as, meditation, music therapy, or yoga, and deep breathing exercises to calm their mind and brain.
Sometimes, doctors also prescribe some drugs and medicines that soothe the brain that may reduce or treat somnambulism completely. In cases, where the underlying cause of sleepwalking is psychiatric disorder, or any other medical condition, then treating the causative health condition is the best way to keep sleepwalking at bay.