Sleepwalking: what it is, treatment, causes, cure, symptoms

What is sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder that manifests itself, most of the time, in the first hours after sleeping. The disorder tends to affect mainly children, but it is estimated that 1 to 15% of the population has already had at least one episode of sleepwalking.

In fact, the age group with the most sleepwalking is children, it is estimated that 25% of them have already had at least one episode of sleepwalking. Identical twins have sleepwalking six times more than non-identical twins. It is believed that 0.5% to 4% of adults have sleepwalking.

Sleepwalking is characterized by carrying out activities, such as walking, talking and even preparing food, without being aware of what is happening.

Most of the time, the sleepwalker’s eyes are open, but it is very difficult for him to remember what happened. Episodes usually last from a few minutes to an hour.

Causes

There is still no certainty as to what causes sleepwalking, what is known is that it usually affects men mainly and that there are some factors that can increase the risk of developing the disorder. They are:

  • Stay without sleep for a long time;
  • Excessive tiredness;
  • Fever;
  • Sleep apnea;
  • Asthma;
  • Changes in sleep routine;
  • Drink alcoholic beverages (especially before bed);
  • Anxiety;
  • Migraine;
  • Restless legs syndrome;
  • Narcolepsy;
  • Depression;
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease;
  • Stress;
  • Stroke;
  • Head trauma;
  • Take certain medications (zolpidem).

Risk factors

There are two main factors that can cause sleepwalking, they are:

Age

It is proven that those who suffer most from the problem are children between 3 and 8 years old, tending to disappear during adolescence. It is possible that sleepwalking appears only in adulthood, related to other health conditions, such as stress and tiredness .

Genetics

Another important factor is genetics. There is strong evidence that infant sleepwalking increases by 45% if either the father or the mother has been sleepwalking at some stage in life. If both have had the disorder, the number increases to 60%.

Symptoms

The main symptoms of somnambulism cannot be felt by the somnambulist, as it is rare that he remembers his episode. However, it is important to know what they are so that family members are alert and can help if necessary.

Generally, the somnambulist:

  • Get out of bed and walk around the room;
  • He keeps his eyes open, but his expression is vague;
  • Sit on the bed and keep your eyes open;
  • He does not answer when questioned;
  • He usually does normal activities, such as going to the bathroom, getting dressed and even eating or preparing food;
  • He doesn’t remember anything he did the next day;
  • It is possible to wake up a sleepwalker, but if he is awake, he can be confused;
  • It presents night terror.

Rarely, the sleepwalker:

  • Leave home;
  • He directs;
  • Have sex;
  • Try to jump out of the window.

Even so, it is always necessary to remove sharp objects from the path, avoid leaving objects on the floor so that the sleepwalker does not fall, lock the doors and remove the keys to prevent it from leaving and also, if possible, place bars and locks on windows and balconies. so that he doesn’t jump.

Diagnosis

The doctors responsible for treating sleepwalking are: neurologists, sleep doctors, geneticists, general practitioners and psychiatrists. It is generally not necessary to worry about sleepwalking, but it is advisable to make an appointment with the professional when the episodes become very recurrent, either in you or in a member of your family, or if the sleepwalker is very aggressive during the disorder .

Before going to the doctor, it is indicated to note the main characteristics that occur during the person’s sleepwalking, such as: what he usually does, eating and drinking, what time it occurs and how long it lasts. All of this information can lead the doctor to make the diagnosis.

In some cases, conducting a sleep study can be helpful. This consists of sleeping in a specialized laboratory that controls all phases of sleep through sensors that are placed in various parts of the body (polysomnography).

Treatment

There are no specific treatments for sleepwalkers. What should be done, however, is to ensure the safety of the sleepwalker, avoiding keeping sharp objects scattered around the house and locking doors and windows to prevent falls.

Although there is no cure, if sleepwalking is very frequent, the doctor may prescribe some medication that fights tension and anxiety , such as antidepressants and benzodiazepines. Some relaxation techniques can also be done to control the disorder.

The hypnosis technique can be useful for some patients because of the relaxation and concentration of the mind. Although hypnosis is a way out, each case of sleepwalking has its own treatment. In some cases it is indicated to wake the patient a few minutes before the time when he usually has a sleepwalking crisis.

Attention! 

NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained on this site is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.

Living with the problem

The safety measures already mentioned in the items above are the best ways to avoid future problems and ensure that the sleepwalker has a good night’s sleep. Another thing recommended by doctors is to send the somnambulist to bed, so that he goes back to sleep peacefully.

It is also indicated that patients:

  • They do not drink alcoholic beverages;
  • Do not play video games, do not watch television, do not tamper with the computer close to bedtime;
  • Do not self-medicate;
  • Create a routine of always going to sleep and waking up at the same times, including on weekends.

Waking up the sleepwalker: myth or truth?

There are beliefs that waking a sleepwalker can cause heart problems for him, but no case is known of that. What can really happen is that the somnambulist becomes stressed and disoriented for not understanding what is happening.

Complications

There are no major complications that can arise in patients with sleepwalking. What can happen is that they get hurt when walking around the house, have excessive sleep during the next day, thus causing stress and poor performance in studies and at work.

Prevention

There is still nothing that can be done to prevent sleepwalking, since it also has no specific cause. It is recommended to always leave space for the somnambulist to pass through the house and not get hurt during this period.

It is also indicated that the somnambulist relaxes before going to bed. Bathing, listening to music or reading a book are activities that can help you get a good night’s sleep.


If you know someone who has this disorder, share this article with them and family members so they know how to act during the sleepwalking crisis! You can also find other texts related to sleep on this same site!

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