Somnambulism

Somnambulism, or Sleepwalking

A person having difficulty sleeping may suffer from one or many forms of sleeping disorders. Types of parasomnia, or abnormal sleeping patterns, are numerous. Each type has its own specialized treatment.

One type of parasomnia is sleepwalking. Sleepwalking, also called somnambulism, means walking while asleep. Sleepwalking is often seen among children, but can occur in people of all ages. By some estimates, up to 15 percent of Americans, or one in seven people, may experience somnambulism at some point in their lives.

A person may walk while asleep, or engage in other behaviors, such as sitting up in bed, talking while asleep, getting dressed, or even leaving the house.

Sleepwalking and its related behaviors may result in safety-related concerns.

Symptoms

Although sleepwalking means walking while asleep, it may also indicate a range of behaviors of a sleeping person, including:
  • Sitting up in bed with eyes appearing to be open
  • Getting dressed
  • Moving around the house, or even leaving the home
A person who is sleepwalking may not have any memory of the event upon waking. The sleepwalking event may last a few seconds, or 30 minutes and even longer.

Causes

Sleeping disorders, such as sleepwalking, may be a result of a variety of factors, including:
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Alcohol or caffeine use
  • Sleep disruption due to a specific sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea
  • Genetics
If the causes are related to an underlying disease, your doctor will work with you to treat the disease. You may undergo a full sleep study to help better understand and treat sleepwalking that you’re experiencing.

Although sleepwalking may not be the result of either a psychological or other medical cause, please talk with your doctor if the condition persists or presents a danger to you or to others.

Risk Factors

According to research, sleep disorders such as sleepwalking may run in families. You therefore may be at higher risk for having a sleep disorder if your parent or other family member has also experienced this condition.

Diagnosis

Once a patient becomes aware of a problem with sleepwalking, a doctor can help manage the condition. Based upon the underlying cause of sleepwalking, your doctor may recommend treatment.

Your doctor will talk with you about your medical history and will conduct a physical exam before diagnosing the condition. Your doctor may also recommend a sleep study to better understand the reasons for and severity of the condition.

Complications

If left untreated, a person may suffer an injury related to sleepwalking, and suffer from daytime fatigue or sleepiness.

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