Sleep walking is a disease which refers to walking or carrying out any other activities while seeming asleep. Although it is not a serious disorder and neither fatal too, only the chances of children getting injured by objects while walking during sleep can be a worry. The disease is majorly observed in children and a short-term syndrome and does not exist for longer span.
Prolonged disturbed sleep associated with school and behaviour issues. Sleep walking is a specific disorder characterized by walking or other activities when still asleep. The condition is characterised by complex of walking while asleep, in some of the cases, children ever indulge in nonsensical talking. In this condition, the person’s eyes are commonly open but are nonsensical and have a characteristic glassy look. The activity is normally seen in childhood and young adolescence.
Approximately 15% of children from the age group of 4 to 12 years old experience sleep walking in majority of the cases. Around 10 percent of all sleep walkers are known to begin their behaviour as teens. As per the medical diagonosis and references, it is understood that it generally appears in some people with increase in certain inherited genes which ultimately takes up on the tendency towards developing sleepwalking behaviours. The condition is common in children and young adults.
Stages of Sleep walking
The condition is categorised in to five stages of sleep walking. The stage 1, 2, 3 and 4 are referred as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and REM (Rapid Eye movement) sleep. The sleep cycle of every individual is associated with dreaming and surges of the essential hormones for proper growth of metabolism. Each sleep cycle lasts for about 90 to 100 minutes and repeats throughout the night. The average individual follows an unknown pattern of four to five complete sleep cycles per night. The condition of sleep walking is characteristically observed during the first or second sleep cycles.
In the stages 3 and 4, the sleep timings are involved within short time frames, and the condition is not intended to occur during naps. Upon waking up, the sleep walker has no memory of his or her behaviour while he or she was asleep.
The activity may include just walking, simply sitting, talking or appearing awake while fast asleep. Getting from the bed and walking around, is a complex reaction. This can also include moving furniture, dressing or undressing, going to the bathroom etc. In some of the extreme cases, some people are even observed driving a car while asleep.
This episode is generally brief, and lasts for maximum 30 minutes long. The condition also has a common misconception, where it is understood that a person in sleep walking should not get awakened. There is absolutely no harm in getting awakened while sleep walking. It might only make him confused and dis-oriented if awakened while walking during sleep.
Signs and symptoms of Sleep walking
- The basic symptom is quiet walking around the room to agitated running or attempt to escape. The person might appear clumsy and dazed if he is walking during sleep.
- Typically the eyes are open and the person appears to be in a glassy staring appearance while quietly roaming around in the room without any active movements or activities. These people do not walk with their arms extended as typically depicted in movies.
- On questioning, the person takes time to answer and the responses are not only gradual but are nonsensical with disrupted phraseology and many of the times the response is absent.
- If the individual returns to bed without awakening, they do not remember the event once awakened.
- People who get awakened often easily after the episode are embarrassed by their behaviour.
- In some cases, bedwetting may also occur.
- The symptoms or the entire condition is not associated with any of the previous sleep disorders in association to insomnia or sleep apnea.
- Niether is the condition related to sleeping alone in the room, fear of darkness (achluophobia) and neither is it an attempt for anger outburst.
- Some medical studies suggest, the condition is normally observed in children who are restless sleepers between the age of four to five.
Tests for Sleepwalking
Usually, the condition is normal and does not require any tests or medical check-ups to be carried out. It goes with time and is rare in elders. Some doctors make a complete medical evaluation considering the medical cause for sleep walking.
An additional attempt of psychological evaluation is also determined in consideration to excessive stress and anxiety which can cause sleep walking in individuals
A special sleep study tests is carried out in people with whom the diagnosis is still unclear.
Treatment for Sleepwalking
Some self care home remedies can be followed to get rid of the episodes of regular sleepwalking if the condition is creating complications in the personal life.
- Following meditation, relaxation exercises and take adequate sleep are the basic things which are required to be followed by a person walking during sleep.
- Avoid stimuli auditory or visual prior to sleeping in night.
- Maintain a safe and clean bedroom, avoid keeping any sharp, heavy or inflammatory objects nearby while sleeping
- Sleep on ground or floor if possible, this will help avoid injuries and help prevent falls.
- Lock the doors and windows every night without fail. Remove all the obstacles from the room, cover glass windows with drapes that are heavy and protective.
- In extreme cases, place an alarm bell on the door or window if required.
- If sleepwalking is the result of any underlying medical condition like pastroesophageal reflux, obstructive sleep apnea, periodic leg movements also known as restless leg syndrome or seizures then it can be treated with a proper medical dose.
Medications like Benzodiazepines like estazolam (ProSom), or trazodone (Desyrel) kind of tricyclic antidepressants have been shown effective. Clonazepam (Klonopin) in low doses before bedtime in continuation for three to six weeks are known to show positive results.