Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a parasomnia disorder that is characterized by walking or performing other complex behaviors while in a state of sleep.
It is a common and benign condition that affects approximately 3-4% of the general population, and is most common in children and adolescents.
The exact cause of sleepwalking is still not well understood, but it is thought to be related to a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Some of the factors that may contribute to sleepwalking include sleep deprivation, stress, alcohol and drug use, and certain medical conditions such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy.
During a sleepwalking episode, the individual is in a state of partial arousal, and may walk around the house, perform simple or complex tasks, or even leave the house and engage in wandering. The person is typically unresponsive to stimuli and does not remember the episode upon waking.
It is important to note that sleepwalking is generally not dangerous and is typically a benign condition. However, it can become a problem if it is associated with injury or causes disruption to the individual's sleep or the sleep of others. In these cases, treatment may be necessary to address the underlying causes and prevent future sleepwalking episodes.
Diagnosis is usually made clinically although a sleep study may be ordered to rule out other causes. Treatment for sleepwalking typically involves addressing any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the sleepwalking episodes. This may include treating sleep apnea, reducing stress and anxiety, and avoiding alcohol and drugs that can interfere with sleep.
In addition, behavioral therapies such as sleep hygiene and relaxation techniques, and certain medications such as benzodiazepines may be recommended to help reduce the frequency and severity of sleepwalking episodes. In more severe cases, medications such as benzodiazepines may be prescribed to help control sleepwalking episodes.
Sleepwalking is a common and benign sleep disorder that is characterized by walking or performing other complex behaviors while in a state of sleep. While it is generally not dangerous, it can become a problem if it is associated with injury or causes disruption to sleep. Treatment for sleepwalking typically involves addressing any underlying medical conditions, practicing good sleep hygiene, and using behavioral and/or pharmacological therapies as needed.
- Ohayon, M. M. (2002). Prevalence of sleepwalking and sleep related eating disorder. Sleep, 25(7), 751-755.
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2014). International Classification of Sleep Disorders, Third Edition. Darien, IL: American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
- Schenck, C. H., & Mahowald, M. W. (2002). Sleepwalking and sleep-related eating disorder. The Lancet Neurology, 1(3), 152-157.
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