IntroductionSleepwalking is a disorder that causes people to sit up in bed, walk, or perform tasks while sleeping. The person’s eyes may be open, and they may appear to be awake. Sleep walking occurs more frequently among children. Sleep walking occurs for many reasons, and correcting the cause may help reduce episodes. A main concern is to ensure a person’s safety during an episode. Some children outgrow sleep walking as they grow older.
In a way, your body goes on “auto-pilot” while you sleep. Your brain regulates automatic functions for you, such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Each night you go through several cycles of sleep that consist of stages of sleep, from "light" sleep (Stages 1 and 2) to "deep" sleep (Slow Wave Sleep or Stage 3/4) and "dream" sleep (Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep). Although sleep is a complex process that is not fully understood, it is known that a good night’s sleep is important for optimal health and functioning.
CausesThe exact cause of sleepwalking is unknown. It occurs more often during slow wave sleep (SWS), typically during the first half of the night when SWS is more common. Exceptions do occur as sleepwalking has also been seen to arise out of light sleep (Stages 1 and 2) at any time throughout the night. Sleepwalking occurs most frequently in children between the ages of three and eight, although it may happen to people of all ages. Excessive tiredness, anxiety, mental illness, medications and seizures appear to contribute to sleepwalking.
Any underlying medical conditions or sleep disorder should be treated. If a particular medication you take causes sleepwalking, your doctor may be able to substitute a similar medication that does not. In some cases, prescription medication may be used to help reduce the number of sleepwalking episodes.
Am I at Risk
Risk factors for sleepwalking include:
_____ Alcohol increases the risk of sleepwalking.
_____ Sleeping pills or sedatives increase the risk of sleep walking.
_____ People with seizures that are caused by a high fever are at risk for sleepwalking.
_____ Being excessively tired or sleep deprivation can lead to sleepwalking.
_____ People that have sleep terrors have an increased risk for sleepwalking.
_____ Children that wet the bed have an increased risk of sleepwalking.
_____ Children with sleep apnea have an increased risk of sleepwalking.
ComplicationsPeople that sleep walk may be at risk of accidental injury during an episode. People are at greater risk for injury if they leave their home or drive.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.