What Really Is Sleepwalking?

What really is Sleepwalking?

 

Imagine walking down the halls late at night not remembering how you got there? Sleepwalking actually involves more than just walking. Sleepwalking behaviors can range from harmless actions, to potentially dangerous actions, to just inappropriate actions such as peeing in a closet. No matter what kids do during their sleepwalking hour, it’s unlikely that they’ll remember ever doing it.

As we sleep, our brains pass through five stages of sleep — stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Together, these stages make up a sleep cycle. One complete sleep cycle lasts about 90 to 100 minutes. So, a person experiences about four or five sleep cycles during an average night’s sleep. Sleepwalking most often occurs during the deeper sleep of stages 3 and 4. During these stages, it’s more difficult to wake someone up, and when awakened, a person may feel weak, and feel confused for a few minutes.

Kids tend to sleepwalk within an hour or two of falling asleep and may walk around for anywhere from a few seconds to 30 minutes. Sleepwalking is far more common in kids than in adults, as most sleepwalkers outgrow it by the early teen years. It may run in families, so if you or your partner are or were sleepwalkers, your child may be too. As in my experience my parents are not sleepwalkers but my sister is. So, sleepwalking is not always passed down from your parents. It might just come naturally.

Now that you know what sleepwalking is, some of you might wonder what actually causes people to sleepwalk. Sleepwalking is caused by stress, depression, fever, change in sleep schedule, and anxiety. If you experience these conditions then you might find yourself sleepwalking. For some people sleepwalking is very dangerous and can cause harm or injury. Medications such as ProSom, Klonopin, and Trazodone are used to treat sleepwalkers. Some people are not in risk of injury so relaxation techniques, mental imagery, and anticipatory awakenings are the preferred treatment options for people with a sleepwalking disorder. Relaxation and mental imagery techniques are most effective when done with the help of a therapist or an experienced person.

When people sleepwalk their eyes are usually open. Ever wonder why? Sleepwalkers in the non-REM stage often have their eyes open, though they may look glazed over or only half awake, but people who are acting out their dreams in  generally have their eyes closed.

Sleepwalking affects more than 3 million people in the US and is most affected to ages 3-13. Sleepwalking is very common and may be harmless or harmful depending on your actions. If you experience some of the conditions mentioned earlier, you could become a sleepwalker. Sleepwalkers don’t remember what they did while they were sleepwalking, so there is endless possibilities of what they could have done. If you suffer from sleepwalking I would recommend seeing a doctor and getting the help you need.

 

 

Resources used: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/abnormal-sleep-behaviors/sleepwalking http://www.medicinenet.com/sleepwalking/article.htm