Sleep Walking

Sleep walking is a common Parasomnia’s and most of us will have experienced this at some time or heard stories of someone that has. Equally, in many cases the actions carried out during the night are not, in most cases, causes for concern and they should not need to be. Sleep-walking is a very broad term to describe the parasomnia, as even sitting up in bed whilst you are asleep can be described as sleep-walking. Loosely defined, sleep-walking is any excessive movement made during the night (this should not be confused with Periodic Limb Movement Disorder). Sleep-walking is thought to be something you either do or do not do; many older sleep-walkers will recall sleep-walking when they were younger.          

Children, Sleep Walking & Somnambulism

Sleep-walking is generally something that occurs more within children, with the number of children occasionally sleep-walking being on average up to 29% whereas within adults it is up to 3%. Somnambulism is the most common of sleep-walking in children (and some adults) and takes place during the latter stages of NREM sleep, the deep sleep. The part of the brain that is involved in thinking and planning is neutral but the part involved in the more physical functions are still active, hence why sleep-walking can take place.

If your child is sleep-walking, it is important you do not worry that this is an abnormal occurrence, as it is very common within children and is not normally a cause for concern. Additionally, your child must not feel like their sleep-walking is wrong or abnormal, and can be reassured that it is likely that it will stop in due course. Equally, if they do not remember the sleep-walking episode in the morning, it is probably best not to mention it. Their anxiety of sleep-walking may only antagonize it as stress is thought to be a cause for the disorder. If the sleep-walking occurs within the child at similar times each night, it may help if you disturb her around 15 minutes before the episode would normally take place. This may then reduce the chances of the sleep-walking occurring.

Adults & Sleep Walking

It is thought that if sleep-walking is occurring regularly within adults it could signify some psychological disorder and may need investigating further. In most cases sleep-walking is not a problem and many people may find that they are not even aware that they have moved during the night, as they will return to bed without waking. However, should you be a family member, friend or partner of someone who sleep-walks then it is a myth that you should not wake them up, so feel free to rouse them! A small number of sleep-walkers are at risk of injury, violence or a risk to other people. Some sleep-walkers have been reported to have driven, walked miles and so on and at this severity it is evidently important to seek help and treatment.

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