What Is Sleep Walking?
Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism or noctambulism, is a behavioural disorder characterised by getting up and walking around during deep sleep. It is more common in children compared to the adults and is more likely to occur if the person is sleep deprived. A person who suffers from sleep walking is termed as Somnambulist. Remember, there is nothing to worry if the episodes are rare, however in case the frequency of the episodes increase, make sure you consult a specialist soon.
How Would You Know If You Are A Somnambulist?
Sleepwalking usually occurs early in the night, often one to two hours after falling asleep. Some of the most common symptoms of sleep walking episodes include:
- Getting out of bed and walking around
- Sleep talking
- Glazed, glassy eyed expression
- Difficulty in waking up the person during an episode
- Unable to recall the episode the next morning
- Quickly return to sleep
- In some cases, bedwetting could also be a common problem
- Inappropriate behaviour such as urinating in closets
- In severe cases, sleepwalking may be accompanied with screaming due to sleep terrors
What Could Cause Sleep Walking?
There could be several reasons for you to sleep walk at night. Some of the most common causes include:
- It could be genetic and run in families
- Excess of drinking
- Certain medications such as sedative hypnotics, neuroleptics, stimulants and antihistamines
- Certain medical conditions such as heart rhythm problems, night-time asthma, heartburn, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD) and psychiatric disorders
How Can One Be Diagnosed With Sleep Walking?
In most cases, an examination or test may not be needed to diagnose sleep walking. A thorough medical evaluation would be sufficient to rule out the cause for the disease. However, in case the doctor is unable to confirm the diagnosis of the disease, you may be suggested to take sleep study tests.
Who Is More Susceptible To Sleep Walking?
Common in children, it most often affects the children aged between 4 and 8 years of age. Studies also suggest that, many cases of sleepwalking may end by the time the child turns 12 years of age.
People with certain medical conditions, such as GERD, OSA, periodic leg movement or seizures, are also at an increased risk for the disease.
How Dangerous Can Sleep Walking Be?
In most cases, sleep walking is not dangerous and when the underlying cause has been addressed by the doctor, it settles over time. However, if left untreated and unaddressed, it can have hazardous consequences. The patient can leave the house during an episode of sleep walking and end up being in dangerous scenarios. The patient may suffer a fall, end up climbing windows, running on the streets or sleep driving which could prove to be hazardous.
What Are The Available Treatments For Sleep Walking?
In case you are Somnambulist, you can practice these effective tips right away:
- Get sound sleep
- Practice meditation and relaxation techniques
- Avoid any auditory or visual stimuli before hitting the bed
- Avoid excessive use of alcohol or central nervous system depressants
- Avoid fatigue, stress and anxiety
In case sleep walking is caused due to medical conditions, such as GERD, OSA, periodic leg movement or seizures, you may be recommended to take medications or other treatment modalities.
For example, in case of OSA, you may be suggested to use certain breathing devices such as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP), Auto Adjusting Airway Pressure? (AutoPAP) and Average Volume Assure Pressure Devices (AVAPS).
Medications may also be suggested in case the chances of injury post the sleep walk is very high.