Ever fallen asleep in your bed and end up somewhere else when you wake up? These are one of the many things a sleepwalker may do. Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder that causes people to get up and walk while sleeping. It may also be referred to as somnambulism. This is usually during the deep stage of sleeping. (The link provides the different stages of sleeping.) The sleepwalker is usually unable to respond to anyone or anything during this type of sleep. They also usually do not remember doing what they did.
There are many different symptoms of sleep walking. This can range from a quiet stroll around the room to disturbed running as if the individual is trying to escape from somewhere. The walkers eyes are usually opened and glassy as if they are staring at something. Their responses are usually also pretty slow.
There are many reasons why a person may sleepwalk. Some of it may be genetic. In fact, it is likely to occur in identical twins. It is also ten times more likely to happen to an individual who may have a first-relative who has episodes of sleepwalking. There are other environmental factors when sleeping that can contribute to a sleepwalker’s disorder. Lack of sleep, stress, alcohol intoxication and drugs can influence a person’s ability to sleepwalk.
Many medical issues have also contributed to people sleepwalking. These include, abnormal heart rhythms, fever, gastroesophageal reflux, nighttime asthma or seizures, or psychotic disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks. Kids tend to sleep walk an hour or two into sleeping. Sleepwalking is also more common in kids than adults. Results showed from a survey of 19,136 across 15 states that certain medical conditions and sleeping conditions have a correlation to sleepwalking.
In a blog written for Smithsonianmag.com, a study was done by neurologists that revealed we like to walk in our sleep. The first ever large scale showed that over 8.4 million Americans have had a sleepwalking episode in this past year. “The study underscores the fact that sleepwalking is much more prevalent in adults than previously appreciated,” the researchers, led by Maurice Ohayon of Stanford University reported.
There are two different types of sleeping the scientists reporter. REM sleep and non REM sleep. REM is rapid eye movement underneath the eyelids. Sleep walking typically happens during the deepest stage of non REM sleeping. This is the part of sleep that if it is interrupted it is the most groggy. It usually lasts from 30 seconds to 30 minutes. Although scientists still do not know the direct cause of sleepwalking, some researchers think that it is caused by the brains attempt to switch from deep non REM sleep to wakefulness. In other words, the brain is going through abnormal patterns of sleep.
Although there are many statistics to show certain reasons for sleepwalking there are always multiple questions we can ask about studies done. Some scientists ask if the medical conditions are provoking the sleep walking or is it the other way around? I find this interesting because this is exactly what we talk about in class. We do not know if it is direct causation or reverse causation.
Is sleepwalking harmful?
Sleepwalking is not harmful; however, people who sleepwalk may not know what they are doing or where they are going. Some people tend to go outside and take a casual stroll down the street or even just walking downstairs. Sleepwalking is not a sign of something being psychologically wrong with an individual. The odds are the person may not even remember what they did by the time they wake up.
How to keep a sleepwalker safe
You should not wake a sleep walker especially if the person is a child because it may scare them. You can however gently guide them back to their bed. In addition, if you know your child is prone to sleepwalking you should lock all of your doors and windows to prevent them from doing anything too dangerous.
I remember one time I was sleepwalking. I had a dream but I did not think I was physically doing the dream. I dreamt that I brought my blanket downstairs to my living room. However, the next morning I woke up in my bed with no blanket on me and my dad was wondering why my blanket was on the couch downstairs in my living room. We all laughed about it but were kind of creeped out at the same time. Do you ever sleep walk? Do you even remember if you have ever?
Websites used: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleepwalking-causes
Website for the pictures: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/human-biology/sleepwalking2.htm