Have you ever slept at one place and woke up at another? If so, you might be one of the 7% people in the world who have experienced sleepwalking once in the lives.
Sleepwalking also known as somnambulism, is more common in children. However, 1.5% of adults face this problem even beyond their childhood years.
Sleepwalking can be caused by some medications and different health conditions which can disturb your sleep. Science says genetics also play a significant role in people having a sleepwalking problem.
What is sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking is a sleep disruption which usually occurs after 2 hours of falling asleep. It happens in the deepest part of a person’s sleep which is called non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.
During sleepwalking eyes are open but the person is usually in a deep sleep. When it happens, people usually sit up or start walking.
In some cases the person who is sleepwalking will also perform ordinary tasks like eating snacks, drinking a glass of water etc., all while sleeping.
Researchers do not consider it as a sleeping disorder. However if it starts happening too often and has an effect on your life during the day, then it should be taken seriously.
In some cases, sleepwalking runs in the family but there are a number of other causes as well for this problem;
- Stress can always interfere with your good night’s sleep and cause sleepwalking.
- People who do not have a normal sleep pattern and do not get much sleep are more exposed to problems like sleepwalking.
- Chronic migraines can cause this problem.
- Sleepwalking is associated with fever in most cases. It is most common in children.
- Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder which causes breathing to stop for short intervals while the person is asleep. This sleeping disorder can cause a person to sleepwalk.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can bring up the stomach’s contents through esophagus which can cause severe heartburning. Patients of this disease are prone to sleepwalking.
- Parkinson’s disease can also be a reason for sleep restlessness hence sleepwalking.
- Certain medications can cause sleepwalking like antipsychotics and antidepressants.
How can you tell when someone is sleepwalking?
People who are sleepwalking usually tend to
- Have distant look into their eyes
- Will not respond when you call them
Other symptoms are;
- Trying to escape/leave the house
- Preparing a meal
- Urinating in places other than a toilet
People who sleepwalk usually do not remember what happened, when they wake up after an episode.
Most episodes end without people getting hurt. However, it can be really dangerous because the person going through all of this does not really know what is going on with them. People in this situation are not able to perceive their surroundings as well.
Some people tend to perform tasks like cooking or driving while they sleepwalk. This can result in cutting yourself with a knife or you might end up killing yourself.
Study says that 100 patients with history of sleepwalking have hurt themselves or other people around them when they were experiencing an episode.
These injuries included these people bumping into walls or furniture and falling from places like falling down from the stairs etc.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If the case of sleep walking is not severe, doctors recommend getting rid of things which are stressing you out. You can do multiple things to reduce the stress levels in your daily life.
Exercising, listening to music, reading a book, taking long showers, cooking your favorite meal are all great ways to relieve stress levels.
If this does not help, consult your doctor again and enlighten them on your situation. This is where they will prescribe medications for you.
Antidepressants can help with relieve stress while other medications like Clonazepam (Klonopin) and diazepam (Valium) have shown to be really effective in this condition.
In cases of children, doctors usually do not prescribe any medicines because problems like sleepwalking generally go away with age. In case it does not, please contact your doctor.