Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder that causes people to get up and walk while sleeping.
Episodes of sleepwalking typically occur when a person is in the deep stages of sleep. The sleepwalker is unable to respond during the event and does not remember sleepwalking. In some cases, sleepwalking is associated with incoherent talking.
Sleepwalking occurs most commonly in childhood, typically between the ages of 4 and 8, but can last into adulthood.
Symptoms of Sleepwalking
Episodes of sleepwalking can range from quiet walking about the room to agitated running or attempts to “escape.” Typically, the eyes are open with a glassy, staring appearance as the person quietly roams the house. On questioning, responses are slow or absent. If the person is returned to bed without awakening, they usually don’t remember the event.
Older children, who may awaken more easily at the end of an episode, often are embarrassed by the behavior (especially if it was inappropriate).
What Causes a Person to Sleepwalk?
Several different factors may be involved in the development of sleepwalking. These may include genetics (traits that run in families), environment, and medical conditions.
Sleepwalking is not associated with other sleep problems, sleeping alone in a room or with others, fear of the dark, or anger outbursts.
Sleepwalking occurs more frequently in identical twins, and is 10 times more likely to occur if a first-degree relative has a history of sleepwalking. Therefore, it is thought the condition can be inherited.
Certain factors may cause a person to sleepwalk, such as:
- Sleep deprivation
- Chaotic sleep schedules
- Alcohol intoxication
- Drugs such as sedative/hypnotics (drugs that promote relaxation or sleep), neuroleptics (drugs used to treat psychosis), stimulants (drugs that increase activity), and antihistamines (drugs used to treat symptoms of allergy)
Medical conditions that have been linked to sleepwalking include:
- Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)
- Gastroesophageal reflux (food or liquid regurgitating from the stomach up into the food pipe)
- Nighttime asthma
- Nighttime seizures (convulsions)
- Obstructive sleep apnea (condition in which breathing stops temporarily while sleeping)
- Psychiatric disorders, for example, posttraumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, or dissociative states, such as multiple personality disorder
info from WebMD
The painting is The Somnambulist by John Everett Millais, found from the wiki commons
Second to last photo from 1958: Nina Vyroubova and Serge Golovine in “The Sleepwalker,” by International Ballet of the Marquees de Cuevas
Last photo from: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
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