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What Is Sleepwalking

Jan 28, 2008
SLEEPWALKING DEFINED

Sleepwalking is a sleeping disorder characterized by behavior usually performed in a wakeful state. Examples of wakeful behavior are sitting up, walking, and sometimes even talking to others. Also known as noctambulism or somnambulism, sleepwalking is listed in the DSM-IV-TR and identified as a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Although incidents of sleepwalking are used by professionals to determine a mental disorder, it is not classified or identified as an emotional problem. It is instead defined as a brain disorder.

During an episode, the sleepwalker behaves according to whatever he or she is dreaming about. Eyes may be open, but they do not acknowledge events, people, or objects around them. This phenomenon typically begins as a sleepwalker experiences stage four sleep (slow-wave sleep). Yet upon waking, they may remember a little of the event, or none at all with the entire episode lasting for only a few minutes or more. Despite myths and warnings, there is no harm in waking a sleepwalker. Awakened sleepwalkers will appear a little disoriented and confused about where they are, how they got there, and why - but they can return to bed easily with little to no fuss.

SLEEPWALKING STATISTICS

Sleepwalking rarely occurs in individuals who don't already suffer from some other psychiatric disorder or problem. But when it does occur, it occurs in more males than females, and only in 1 - 5% of children. By the time sleepwalking children reach the teen years, sleepwalking usually stops on it own without medication, diet change, or behavior modification. Chances are that there is a history of sleepwalking somewhere in the family of frequent and persistent sleepwalkers, and the number of sleepwalking adults is less than the number of sleepwalking children.

WHAT CAUSES SLEEPWALKING

Anything that affects the nervous system can be blamed for sleepwalking, and that includes consumption anti-depressants or sleeping pills, a severe illness, and the experience of extreme emotional stress such as a death or a frightening event. Hormones may contribute to sleepwalking episodes as well so events that cause drastic hormonal changes (adolescence, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, etc.) could play a role in triggering sleepwalking episodes too. There are no known foods that trigger sleepwalking.

HOW TO CURE SLEEPWAKING

Unless sleepwalking is a regular occurrence and it places its victims in danger, there's no need to seek medical attention. When sleepwalking happens repeatedly or puts the sleepwalker in harm, a physician may prescribe benzodiazepines to keep the patient in bed. Benzodiazepines are lipophilic amines and they're used as tranquilizers, sedatives, hypnotics, or musclerelaxants. Some well known brands are Ativan, Halcion, Libritabs, Librium, ProSom, Restoril, Valium, Versed, or Xanax,

SLEEPWALKING DANGERS

The physical dangers of sleepwalking are pretty obvious, however besides risking bodily harm or even death, sleepwalking individuals actually lose a lot of sleep since a portion of their sleeping time is spent in activity. As a result, they may experience fatigue during the daytime and will more than likely experience insomnia during the nights that they slept during the day.
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