- Sleepwalking occurs when you get up from bed and walk around even though you are still asleep. Your eyes are usually open and have a confused, “glassy” look to them. It can also involve a series of other complex actions. Before walking, you might sit up in bed and look around in a confused manner; or you may bolt from the bed and walk or run away from a threat that was dreamed or talk or shout as you are walking. You might begin doing routine daily actions that are not normally done at night. More often, it involves actions that are crude or in the wrong place. It can also result in hostile and violent behavior.
- Adults might dream or hallucinate while they sleepwalk. Some people will eat. It can be very hard to wake a sleepwalker up. When you wake up, you can be very confused because you normally have no memory of the event. Some recall bits and pieces of what took place. The walking can suddenly end by itself, leaving you in a very awkward place. At other times, the individual may return to bed.
- Episodes can occur rarely, or very often, even during a nap, multiple times a night for a few nights in a row. The main risk is injury to self or others in the home. It can also disrupt the bed partner’s sleep. It may begin at any time in the adult life.
Children. Sleepwalking is more common in children and is a fairly normal part of a child’s early sleep patterns. The child may walk toward a light or to the parents’ bedroom or occasionally to a window or door, or even go outside putting put them at great risk. Older children may be more vocal and active as they sleepwalk. Children who sleepwalk often talk in their sleep and have sleep terrors. It can begin as soon as a child is able to walk and peaks by the time they are 8-12 years old. There is a strong family link to having it. s. Although sleep walking usually is harmless, your child can be at risk of an injury. These tips will help you keep a sleepwalking child safe: calmly help your child return to bed during a sleepwalking episode, tie a bell to your child’s doorknob to alert you when the door is opened, if your child sleeps upstairs, install a safety gate at the top of the stairs, make sure that all windows in the house are locked securely, install locks out of your child’s reach on all doors that lead out of the house, if episodes occur regularly at the same time of night, briefly wake your child just before that time
Causes. Episodes of sleepwalking and sleep terrors share many of the same causes. These include the following: sleep deprivation, hyperthyroidism, migraine headaches, head injury, brain swelling, stroke, the premenstrual period, bloated stomach, physical or emotional stress, sleep apnea, other sleep-related disorders, travel, sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings, some medications, alcohol use and abuse, noise or light, fevers in children.
Self Evaluation. If your answer to the first question and at least one of the others is yes, then you might have a sleepwalking disorder.
- At times, do you get out of bed and walk around while you are still asleep?
- Do you perform routine actions at strange times?
- Do you perform crude or bizarre actions during these events?
- Are any of these behaviors dangerous?
- Are you confused after others struggle to wake you?
- Is it hard for you to remember what took place?
- Also, your sleep problems may be a result of one of the following: another sleep disorder, a medical condition, medication use, a mental health disorder or substance abuse.
Seeing a Sleep Specialist. Sleepwalking in children does not usually need medical treatment. Parents should simply keep a close watch. An adult who sleepwalks is at a greater risk of injury. In this case, it would be a good idea to seek a doctor’s advice.
Sleep Diary. You will also want to keep a sleep diary for two weeks. The sleep diary will help the doctor see your sleeping patterns. This information gives the doctor clues about what is causing your problem and how to correct it.
Testing. Your doctor will likely have you do an overnight sleep study called a polysomnogram if you are an adult. It charts your brain waves, heart beat, and breathing as you sleep. It also records how your arms and legs move. This shows if there are other disorders, such as sleep apnea, that are causing your sleep problems. The best sleep study will also record your sleep on video. This will help show if you get out of the bed and do anything unusual during the study.
Treatments. For children, it tends to go away on its own as they enter the teen years and there is no need for treatment. Sleepwalking can occur when sleep is fragmented by other sleeping problems. Obstructive sleep apnea (Sleep Apnea) is a common medical problem that can lead to frequent arousals from sleep which may increase the risk of sleepwalking. Symptoms of Sleep Apnea include snoring, waking up gasping for air, and daytime sleepiness. Treatment of Sleep Apnea may improve sleepwalking.
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