Many of us have heard about people walking in their sleep. Sleepwalking is one of the most common arousal disorders. Also known as somnambulism in medical parlance, the person suffering from this disorder walks in his sleep. Sleepwalking occurs mainly in childhood and adolescence. It is prevalent among children between 4 to 8 years of age.
Usually the episodes of sleepwalking decreases with age. But sometimes it can last into adulthood. Sleepwalking occurs two to three hours after a person sleeps, and it lasts for 5 to 10 minutes, after which the person returns to bed by himself and resumes sleep. Sometimes somnambulism can be dangerous as a person may leave the house or climb out on the roof or window ledge. Sleepwalkers are always at risk of getting injured.
Symptoms Of Sleepwalking Disorder
The most noticeable symptom of sleepwalking is person walking in his sleep. However, there are ranges of other symptoms of sleepwalking. The person may walk around his house quietly or run about here and there. During this period the eyes remain open with a starry and glassy look.
There is amnesia of sleepwalking. If awakened during this stage the child is frightened, but more usually he is puzzled to understand this behavior. Frequently during sleepwalk the child may urinate in places other than the washroom.
The episodes occur in the first few hours of sleep when the person is in deep sleep. When asked he will not remember of the event in the morning. The episodes of sleepwalking may occur every night or at random. In more severe cases the child may open the door and roam out of the house.
What Are The Causes Of Sleepwalking?
There are several underlying reasons which are established to cause sleepwalk. In some people it is known to be a familial inheritance, other reasons can be environmental and medical problems. However, sleepwalking does not occur due to fear of darkness, staying alone in room, or due to anger.
Genetic reason: Sleepwalking is present in families. If father or mother has history of sleepwalking, their children are more likely to develop this condition.
Other causes of sleep disorders are:
- Lack of sleep
- Mental stress
- Alcoholic abuse
- Unusual heart rhythm
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Certain medications such as antihistamines, stimulants, sedatives etc.
- Sleeping in different surrounding than usual.
- Sleeping without emptying bladder.
- Head injuries, migraines and restless leg syndrome.
How To Deal With Sleepwalking Disorder?
In majority of cases sleepwalking does not require to be treated. Especially children out grow sleepwalking over a period of time. However, if the episodes are too frequent there are ways to handle the situation.
- If you notice the patient walking in sleep, gently take him to the bed and make him lie down. This way you do not disrupt his sleep. Sometimes if you wake up the person, he may become confused and anxious.
- One of the ways to treat sleepwalking in children is that the child should be relaxed before sleeping. Let him listen to music that is relaxing. Make him sleep at a scheduled time. Daytime naps are useful to reduce episodes.
- Adults should avoid coffee and tea before going to bed. Keep the bedroom atmosphere relaxed and peaceful. Adults suffering from this disorder are also treated with hypnosis therapy.
- If the underlying cause is some drug, change in the drug can help to prevent further episodes of walking in sleep.