Defining Sleepwalking Disorder
Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism or noctambulism, is a sleep disorder in which the person has the capacity to walk around while asleep. People who are sleepwalking can perform all the activities in sleep as they could in full state of consciousness such as making and eating food, or even sexual activities or, rarely, driving while still asleep.
Sleepwalking is a brain related sleeping disorder with psychiatric indications. Sleep walking may not generally result in waking up. People who sleep walk typically return to bed in a short while. The person may or may not remember anything about the walk after going back to sleep. The person may feel embarrassed about the awkward situation if they wake up while sleepwalking. Many people chose to remain silent even if they come to know about this sleep disorder to avoid embarrassing situations. Some other sleep disorders are: Hypersomnia, Insomnia, Narcolepsy, Sleep Terror and Nighmare Disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleepwalking Disorder
- Doing everyday activities during sleep
- Clumsy movements that range from walking to driving a car while asleep
- Speaking while asleep
- Performing violent activities like screaming or hitting with limbs
- Leaving the house
- Appear to wake up and quietly sit down in bed and stare at walls
- Singing while asleep
- Being oblivious of others' presence during the episode
- Not waking up easily
Causes and Risk Factors
Sleepwalking doesn't usually occur during naps. This sleep disorder is generally witnessed while a person is in deep sleep. Human brain is not in its conscious state during sleep walking and therefore nothing is retained in the human brain. The person can’t usually remember the episode, the next day in the morning. Normally a person sleep walks after 3/4th duration of his normal sleep cycle is complete, which is generally 1-2 hours after falling asleep. Typically sleep walking is caused due to psychological disturbances like stress or anxiety. It can also occur as a result of illness or fever or some heavy medication.
Although, sleepwalking is largely not taken seriously and ignored by many people, it can bring a lot of physical and psychological risks which may include:
- Crankiness and irritation
- Violent streak in human brain
- Low self-esteem if one is aware of this disorder
- Sexual or physical abuse to family members
- Stress or depression
- Accidents or mishaps
- Problems with mental health
It is important for people to realize that sleep walking is a brain disorder. Medical treatment in a rehabilitation center may be compulsory to treat severe effects brought about by sleepwalking disorder. It has been observed that persons suffering from this sleep disorder are too embarrassed to talk about it. Counseling and therapy is the best way to overcome sleepwalking disorder.
Sleepwalking disorder is extensively found among young children and it is generally overcome as they grow older. In case, this sleeping disorder becomes a frequent occurrence, it should be subjected to medical ailment at the earliest. Doctors use medications like benzodiazepines or tricyclic antidepressants to control sleep walking. These medicines should be taken in low doses. As a precaution, people who sleep walk should avoid keeping dangerous items near them while asleep. Prevention and early diagnosis is the best treatment for such disorders.