You’ve heard about things that go bump in the night, but what if the thing that’s going bump turns out to be….you? Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a fascinating yet potentially concerning sleep disorder that affects individuals during their sleep cycles. This phenomenon involves walking or performing complex activities while still in a state of sleep, often without the individual's awareness.
You’ve heard about things that go bump in the night, but what if the thing that’s going bump turns out to be….you? Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a fascinating yet potentially concerning sleep disorder that affects individuals during their sleep cycles. This phenomenon involves walking or performing complex activities while still in a state of sleep, often without the individual's awareness. The causes of sleepwalking can be multifaceted, and understanding this condition is crucial for effective management and treatment.
What Is Sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking is a type of parasomnia, a group of sleep disorders characterized by abnormal behaviors, movements, emotions, perceptions, and dreams that occur while falling asleep, during sleep, or upon waking. Sleepwalking typically occurs during non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, specifically during the deeper stages of sleep, and often within the first few hours of falling asleep.
During a sleepwalking episode, individuals might perform various activities such as sitting up in bed, walking around the room, leaving the house, or even driving a car—all while remaining asleep and unaware of their actions. The behavior exhibited during sleepwalking can range from simple and repetitive tasks to more complex activities.
Causes Of Sleepwalking
Sleepwalking can be triggered by a variety of factors, including:
Genetics: Family history can play a significant role, as sleepwalking tendencies often run in families.
Sleep Deprivation: Lack of adequate sleep or irregular sleep patterns can increase the likelihood of sleepwalking.
Stress and Anxiety: Emotional stress, anxiety, or underlying psychological factors might contribute to sleepwalking episodes.
Medications: Some medications, especially sedatives or those that affect the central nervous system, can increase the likelihood of sleepwalking.
Medical Conditions: Fever, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and other sleep disorders can be associated with sleepwalking.
Treatment Options For Sleepwalkers
While sleepwalking itself might not directly cause harm, the potential risks associated with engaging in activities while asleep can be a concern. Treatment options for sleepwalking aim to reduce the frequency and severity of episodes, and may include:
Improving Sleep Hygiene: Establishing a regular sleep schedule and ensuring a restful sleep environment can help reduce the occurrence of sleepwalking.
Medication: In some cases, doctors might prescribe medications to manage sleepwalking episodes, especially if it's linked to other sleep disorders or underlying conditions.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Therapy techniques can be beneficial, especially in cases where stress or anxiety plays a significant role in triggering sleepwalking.
Sleepwalking remains a mysterious but manageable sleep disorder. With the right approach and support, individuals experiencing sleepwalking can effectively navigate this condition and enjoy restful, safe sleep.
Did you enjoy this article? Check out What Is Sleep Paralysis? next.
Sleepwalking: What is Somnambulism? (2020, November 18). Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders/sleepwalking
Mayo Clinic. (2017). Sleepwalking - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleepwalking/symptoms-causes/syc-20353506
Sleepwalking Causes & the Dangers of Sleepwalking in Adults. (2013, February 28). American Academy of Sleep Medicine – Association for Sleep Clinicians and Researchers. https://aasm.org/adult-sleepwalking-is-serious-condition-that-impacts-health-related-quality-of-life/