What is sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking — also known as somnambulism — is a sleep disorder in which sleepers arise from their sleep and perform activities such as walking, sitting up, cleaning, cooking and driving.

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These events are most common in children between 4-8 years old, particularly if they are sleep deprived, have sleep apnea, or experience bedwetting. It is also a hereditary trait. Children with a parent who has sleepwalked are 45 percent more likely to do the same, and those with two parents who were affected are 60 percent more likely to sleepwalk. It is also related to sleep terrors, and the two conditions can sometimes happen concurrently.

Why do people sleepwalk?

Sleepwalking in children may be attributed to a delay in maturation.

While it usually decreases as the child enters adolescence and adulthood, it is still common in adults, with anywhere from 1 to 15 percent of the population dealing with sleepwalking.

In adults, it is often triggered by sleep deprivation, sedatives like alcohol, fever-related illnesses, and some medications.

It is important to create a safe environment for sleepwalkers so they dont accidentally hurt themselves while walking, particularly for children. Doors and windows should be locked, sharp objects should be kept out of the area near the bed, and gates should be installed on stairways. While some people think sleepwalkers should not be woken, it can actually be dangerous not to do so. They may be difficult to wake, however, and will probably not remember it.

There are no specific treatments. Instead, each case should be discussed individually with a patient's doctor. They may recommend increasing the amount of sleep, eliminating alcohol, and performing relaxing activities before bed. Sleep medicine treatments are also available for sleepwalkers.

If you or your children sleepwalk, please contact our sleep medicine specialists.

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