The Sleepwalker

sleepwalking-man.jpg  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.  
sleep-stages.gif
   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
http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/05/the-science-of-sleepwalking/
Website for the pictures: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/human-biology/sleepwalking2.htm
  

3 thoughts on “The Sleepwalker

  1. LEMMY NGUGI THUKU

    Your post was very interesting. The discussion of sleep walking reminded me of a rare drug side-effect from Ambien; Sleep-driving. I first heard about this when taking a bus in State College. I met a veteran with and amputated-leg, who got his Driver’s licence canceled because of sleep-driving.

    The phenominon is a rare side-effect of the insomnia drug; Ambien according to the FDA. According to the article (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/14/AR2007031401027.html) the phenominon is rare enough (that is, a small proportion of users in trials suffer from it), that the drug and others that caused similarly flagged sleep behaviours, simply have to continue doing clinical trails to somehow solve it.

    Below is also a podcast by NPR’s This American Life which has a story about some crazy story’s of sleep walkers. One of which was made into a major motion picture recently:

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/361/fear-of-sleep

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/361/fear-of-sleep

  2. TESS STAIRIKER

    I have freaked out my roommate on numerous occasions by sleepwalking and sleeptalking. She’s woken up to see me sitting at my desk wrapped in a blanket, but sleeping or gone and walking around the halls. She’s also heard me have conversations (with myself?) while I am sleeping, which freaked me out when she told me. I remember doing this starting my junior and senior year of high school and my mom thought it was due to stress. Very interesting how you should not wake up a sleepwalker; I have always been woken up by others when I sleepwalk. (It’s probably scary to see though! Especially after watching Paranormal Activity…)

  3. Sarah Wells

    One of my friends suffers from severe sleepwalking and night terrors. Once she was spending the night and started screaming because she thought someone was in the room. Sleepwalking, like you said, can be very mild or severe like my friend’s case. I have sleep walked several times in my life. Mostly when I stay up late watching tv on the couch. Once I fall asleep I walk to my room but don’t remember getting there in the morning, like your experience. Sometimes I would also bring the remote with me…weird, I know. I found that there are medications you can take to prevent sleepwalking episodes – ProSom, Klonopin, and Trazodone
    Recently I have been sleep talking a lot. Like sleepwalking I don’t remember doing this. If it wasn’t for my roommate cracking up from my senseless conversations and recording them in her phone I would never know! They’re actually kind of funny though and usually provide a good laugh for us in the morning.

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