The Sleepwalking is a disorder of the sleep widely known, whose main characteristic is that people walk or perform a certain activity while lie dormant; activities like getting dressed, going to the bathroom, and even going outside. Although it can occur in people of all ages, the truth is that it is more common in children.
In relation to sleepwalking episodes , they are generally brief, lasting a few seconds or minutes . However, in certain cases, they can last up to more than half an hour.
It is estimated that about 20% of the world’s population is at risk of sleepwalking. Among the different population groups, it is children and adolescents between 11 and 16 years of age who are most at risk.
Some studies carried out in recent years indicate that men are more likely to suffer from this sleep disorder than women. In relation to genetic causes, some research has determined that if both parents suffer from sleepwalking, their children have a 60% chance of suffering from this disorder.
What is sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder in which the person suffering from it can develop certain motor functions , even highly complex ones, automatically while they are asleep.
Although in many cases the figure of the sleepwalker is visualized as a person who gets out of bed and walks staggering around the house with his arms extended forward, the reality is quite different. The sleepwalker is more lucid and, in the vast majority of cases, his eyes are open. In the case of adults, they also show a certain degree of awareness about their activities.
However, he is not conscious enough to remember what he has done during that period of time. That is why there are very few accounts given in the first person.
Everything happens during the first third of the night, which is known as Non-REM ; it is the deepest state of sleep. This is when the body makes movements in bed and the brain gradually begins to relax. Thus, during this phase, the body is very active while the brain is not.
They differ from the types of somnambulism.
It is known as such to one in which the person sits up in bed, faces his eyes repeatedly, makes slight movements and, finally, lies back in bed to continue sleeping.
In certain cases, the person suffering from this disorder gets out of bed, being able to carry out any activity outside of it without being aware of it: talking, dressing … Once the person wakes up, they are unable to remember anything that has happened.
Despite the numerous studies that have been carried out on sleepwalking, the exact causes of this disorder are not known. Some experts point out that it may be herditary, although it cannot be absolutely confirmed.
In the case of children, one of the most common causes is sleep deprivation and anxiety . In the XXI century, more and more children are suffering from stress and anxiety, both in the family and at school.
As for adults, one of the main causes is alcohol consumption . Certain medications can also lead to this disorder.
The seizures are also another reason why sleepwalking occurs frequently and certain mental disorders.
In the specific case of elderly people, sleepwalking can have its origin in a behavior disorder, sometimes due to the loneliness and social isolation they suffer.
The symptoms of sleepwalking vary greatly between children and adults.
In the case of children, their attitude is in the vast majority of cases the most pleasant. They generally sit on the bed with their eyes open and a surprised expression on their face. They do not tend to take violent attitudes. When they wake up, they don’t remember anything about what happened.
As for adults, in many cases sleepwalking leads to problematic behavior as it is accompanied by violent attitudes. That is why in many cases sleepwalking is not the main problem, but the injuries that result from it.
While sleepwalking children do not usually remember any of the dreams that have accompanied sleepwalking, adults do have a record of the content of their dreams, which in the vast majority of cases take on a violent character.
A theme that is repeated frequently is that of situations in which the person must flee with the greatest possible urgency : fires, buildings that are about to collapse due to an earthquake … They are dreams that create the need for immediate escape and that, for Thus, they cause adults to get out of bed.
When sleepwalking episodes occur, it is common for adults to open their eyes and their easy expression to remain absent. If someone wakes them up, they may be aggressive, so avoid it.
Another common symptom is talking while asleep; They are usually disconnected phrases and without any meaning .
Before the slightest suspicion of sleepwalking, it is advisable to go to the doctor to establish the most appropriate diagnosis and treatment for it.
The diagnosis of this disorder does not require the performance of any type of medical test or physical examination by the specialist. However, in certain cases, the patient may consider it convenient to carry out one to rule out that sleepwalking is related to a specific disorder, such as seizures .
In the same way, if the specialist considers that the cause of sleepwalking, both in children and in adults, is stress and anxiety, they can request a psychological examination.
Once the diagnosis of this disease is established, the doctor proceeds to apply the most appropriate treatment for it. When an adult experiences dreams of violent content that are accompanied by abnormal behavior, the most common treatment involves the administration of certain medications.
Sometimes sleepwalking is sporadic; There are episodes during a certain period of time, which remit on their own. In these cases, treatment is given for a season and then stopped. Then it is necessary to follow the patient’s evolution and, if necessary, resume treatment.
In the case of infantile sleepwalking, in the vast majority of cases it does not have major consequences, and it usually disappears with the passage of time. In general, it is sufficient to establish adequate periods of sleep and rest. It is therefore a benign disorder that remits with age.
The complications that occur most frequently in both children and adults are collisions with certain elements, resulting in more or less serious injuries .
It is common for those who suffer from sleepwalking to gradually begin to develop a great fear of what may happen during the night. Thus, in the case of adults, it is common for them to try by all means to avoid sleep. A situation that negatively affects the quality of life since sleeping well is essential for good physical and mental health.
How to prevent sleepwalking?
There is no 100% effective method to avoid this disorder. However, there are a number of prevention measures that can be of great help.
First of all, especially in the case of children, it is important to adopt regular rest schedules . For example, it is common for parents to extend and / or vary the rest hours of their children during the vacation period. Well, it is something that should be avoided to prevent sleepwalking as much as possible.
Second, in the case of adults, it is advisable to sleep eight hours a day. In addition, it is advisable to lead a relatively calm rhythm of life, in addition to reducing alcohol intake as much as possible.
In general, the prognosis for this disorder in both children and adults is positive in both the medium and long term. In the case of the little ones, sleepwalking subsides as they grow older. As for adults, sleepwalking and the violent behaviors that accompany it disappear when alcohol consumption is moderated or when they sleep more and better.
What to do with a sleepwalking person?
One of the big questions among those who live with a sleepwalker is how they should deal with this situation. There is a wide range of urban legends, such as the one that indicates that if a sleepwalking person is suddenly awakened, they may suffer a myocardial infarction .
Well, even if it is not entirely true, it is important to act carefully, avoiding taking the person out of their dream in a violent way. It is best to take her back to her bed to continue her rest . In general, a sleepwalker is very easy to move; thus, it is enough to take her gently by the arm and carry her to her bed.
Sleepwalking is one of the most well known sleep disorders. As we have pointed out, it is benign , so it is not serious in the vast majority of cases.
The most important thing to prevent it, and also to treat it properly, is to rest properly and lead a calm and relaxed pace of life as much as possible.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.