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What is a Sleepwalking Disorder?

A sleepwalking disorder, or somnambulism, is a condition where individuals perform activities while in a deep sleep state, often with no memory of the event. It can range from harmless walking to complex actions. Understanding the triggers and safety measures is crucial for those affected. Wondering how it impacts daily life or what treatments exist? Let's explore this nocturnal phenomenon further.
Marisa O'Connor
Marisa O'Connor

A sleepwalking disorder, also called somnambulism, is diagnosed by a doctor or mental health professional. It describes a sleeping disorder in the parasomnia family, where a person has repeated episodes of motor activity while sleeping. This motor activity generally manifests as sitting up in bed and rising and walking around while unconscious.

A person usually appears to be awake while sleepwalking, with his or her eyes open, but is unresponsive and considered asleep. Sleepwalking occurs during the deepest phase of sleep, usually in the first third of the night. A single episode of a sleepwalking disorder can last anywhere from 30 seconds to an hour. On average, sleepwalking lasts 5 to 15 minutes. A sleepwalking disorder is associated with incoherent talking, sometimes mumbling or using real words in a nonsensical order. Once awake, the sleepwalker typically doesn't remember the episode.

A sleepwalking disorder can be symptomatic of a medical disorder.
A sleepwalking disorder can be symptomatic of a medical disorder.

There are a few different factors that may increase the likelihood of developing a sleepwalking disorder. Genetics are believed to play a part in sleepwalking, meaning that it tends to run in families. Stress is another factor that can increase the chances of a sleepwalking episode. Significant life changes such as divorce, marriage, or the death of a loved one all increase occurrences of stress-related sleepwalking.

Sleepwalking disorders can disrupt regular sleep at night, making it difficult to stay awake during the day.
Sleepwalking disorders can disrupt regular sleep at night, making it difficult to stay awake during the day.

Fever or illnesses that affect the nervous system can trigger sleepwalking. Alcohol use and sleep deprivation also increase chances of sleepwalking. It may also be brought on by hormonal changes. Pregnancy, puberty, and menstruation are some hormonal changes that might lead to sleepwalking. Some medications, such as sedatives, neuroleptics, and antihistamines, can also increase chances of developing a sleepwalking disorder.

Suffering from sleep deprivation can increase one's chances of becoming a sleepwalker.
Suffering from sleep deprivation can increase one's chances of becoming a sleepwalker.

A sleepwalking disorder is symptomatic of certain medical conditions. Nighttime asthma, nighttime seizures, and sleep apnea may be triggers. Arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, might also cause sleepwalking. It may occur due to post traumatic stress disorder, a panic disorder, and dissociative disorders as well as other psychiatric disorders.

The risks of sleepwalking mostly revolve around the sleepwalker getting injured. Sleepwalkers are not conscious of their surroundings despite the fact that they can usually navigate familiar places, such as their home. Some sleepwalkers repeatedly attempt an escape in their sleep. This can be very dangerous if they try to climb out windows or walk into busy streets.

Traumatic life changes can cause someone to sleepwalk.
Traumatic life changes can cause someone to sleepwalk.

A sleepwalking disorder does not usually require any treatment. Sleepwalking does not usually have negative consequences that require treatment, with the exception of occasional injuries from loss of balance. Injuries can be prevented by making sure the environment is secure and removing tripping hazards from the floor. Sometimes short-acting tranquilizers may help reduce sleepwalking episodes.

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    • A sleepwalking disorder can be symptomatic of a medical disorder.
      By: paultarasenko
      A sleepwalking disorder can be symptomatic of a medical disorder.
    • Sleepwalking disorders can disrupt regular sleep at night, making it difficult to stay awake during the day.
      By: oporkka
      Sleepwalking disorders can disrupt regular sleep at night, making it difficult to stay awake during the day.
    • Suffering from sleep deprivation can increase one's chances of becoming a sleepwalker.
      By: bramgino
      Suffering from sleep deprivation can increase one's chances of becoming a sleepwalker.
    • Traumatic life changes can cause someone to sleepwalk.
      By: Piotr Marcinski
      Traumatic life changes can cause someone to sleepwalk.
    • Someone who has a sleepwalking disorder may feel groggy in the morning.
      By: MaxRiesgo
      Someone who has a sleepwalking disorder may feel groggy in the morning.
    • Some medications can increase chances of developing a sleepwalking disorder.
      By: slava
      Some medications can increase chances of developing a sleepwalking disorder.
    • On average, sleepwalking lasts five to 15 minutes.
      By: Helder Almeida
      On average, sleepwalking lasts five to 15 minutes.