Why do people sleepwalk?

Sleepwalking sounds like a funny subject at first glance. It’s certainly an ironic and interesting subject, how does one sleepwalk? I wanted to figure this out for myself since I have sleepwalked multiple times in my life. The worst instance is when I walked outside the hotel room my family was staying in while sleeping. When I awoke I realized I had locked myself outside the room at four in the morning. Since I have done it multiple times I was curious to see if there are any direct causes that make a person sleepwalk.

To start off here is one of my favorite movie scenes, that just so happens to involve sleep walking.  Now, surely not everyone who sleepwalks puts their moms purse in the freezer, or couch pillows in the oven. However, sleepwalking is a real thing that happens. Sleepwalking is formally know as somnambulism, and it is described as a behavior disorder that results in the individual performing tasks such as walking, talking, and sometimes other complex activities while being asleep. Early stages of sleep walking could involve just talking in your sleep, or sitting up in bed, as it progresses it could involve standing up, walking, and eventually performing tasks (Sleep Foundation). Over 8.4 millions, or 3.6 percent of adult americans sleepwalk each year. Sleepwalking usually occurs when the individual is in a deep sleep, in the middle of the night when their eye movement is not rapid or the non-REM part of a person’s sleep cycle. Sleepwalking creates great injury risk to both the sleepwalker and anyone around the sleepwalker. As the sleepwalker is not aware of what they are doing during the moment, and probably will not remember what they did when they wake up the next morning (Jaslow, 2012). Overall, sleepwalking is a dangerous act for all involved, but what causes it to happen?


There are many possible causes that would cause someone to sleepwalk. For example, according to the Mayo Clinic there are many causes of sleepwalking that align with a prolonged period of a lack of sleep such as fatigue. In addition some psychological problems such as anxiety and depression can cause sleepwalking (Mayo Clinic). In fact, this article from CBS states that people with depression are 3.5 times more likely to sleepwalk than someone who is not depressed (Jaslow, 2012). There are some ways you can help someone who is sleepwalking to either prevent it, or prevent the damage they do if they happen to do it.

Because of the dangers of sleepwalking it is recommended to lock all windows and doors if it is thought a family member is in danger of sleepwalking. The best way to prevent sleepwalking is to get a substantial amount of sleep every night, and keep a consistent sleeping schedule. The Mayo Clinic has an entire list of possible things to do if you feel like someone you live with, our yourself is in danger of sleepwalking (Mayo Clinic). The thing I’ve always heard is that you aren’t supposed to wake up a sleepwalker as it can be dangerous to both parties involved. This is in fact not true, it is indeed harmless to both you and the sleepwalker in most occasions; the sleepwalker just may be non-responsive or disoriented as a result of it (Soniak, 2013). As a person who has had multiple episodes of sleepwalking I can attest to the fact that my episodes have happened when I have been on an abnormal sleeping schedule, or when I have been extremely fatigued. It is on the person who has a sleepwalking problem to get their proper sleep to decrease the chance of it happening. However, the people around them can set up and environment so that if they happen to sleepwalk; they can minimize the damage.


Works Cited
Abate16. “Step Brothers Sleepwalking Scene (HD).” YouTube. YouTube, 18 Feb. 2009. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.
FAAP, John Mersch MD. “Sleepwalking Symptoms, Treatment, Causes – What Other Conditions Will My Doctor Consider before Diagnosing Sleepwalking? – MedicineNet.” MedicineNet. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.
Jaslow, Ryan. “More than 8.4 Million Americans Sleepwalk Each Year, Study Finds.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 15 May 2012. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.
“Sleepwalking – Overview & Facts.” Sleepwalking. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.
“Why Aren’t You Supposed to Wake a Sleepwalker?” Mental Floss. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.
“Why Aren’t You Supposed to Wake a Sleepwalker?” Mental Floss. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.

Leave a Reply