For most people, sleepwalking conjures a picture of some Hollywood movie where the sleepwalker, eyes glazed, arms stretched out in front, walks in a rigid, monsterlike fashion, unaware of their actions.
While film dramatizes the actual disorder of sleepwalking, some characteristics apply. For instance, sleepwalkers appear awake (their eyes are open) but are actually in the deepest phase of sleep (stage four). They may be able to navigate around objects and in some cases perform basic tasks such as opening a door. And, sleepwalkers may become combative if they are restrained.
Researchers believe that sleepwalking has a genetic link and results from an incomplete development of the brain in certain individuals. Stress, fever, sleep deprivation, and epilepsy are known triggers for sleepwalking. Approximately four percent of adults have consulted doctors about sleepwalking. Yet it appears to be more common among children. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of children aged 5 to 12 have at least one episode of sleepwalking.
In most cases, sleepwalking ends on its own after adolescence. Treatment for older children and adults may include a variety of medications as well as hypnotherapy. Adults who sleepwalk may be suffering posttraumatic stress disorder or other psychiatric illness that may require treatment with prescription medications, hypnotherapy, stress-management techniques, and psychotherapy.
Like sleepwalking, night terrors also afflict people while they are fully asleep. Learn what this condition is and how it differs from nightmares.
For more information on how to get a good night's sleep, see:
- How Sleep Works
- Causes of Insomnia
- How to Fall Asleep
- Sleep Medications
- Natural Sleep Aids
- How to Help A Child Who Is Having Trouble Falling Asleep
- Is Lack of Sleep Making Me Fat?
- Is Science Phasing Out Sleep?