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What Is Sleep Walking, It’s Causes & Treatment


Sleep walking is also known as somnambulism or noctambulism, is a phenomena of combined sleep and wakefulness. This has been classified as a sleep disorder and it belongs to the parasomnia family. Sleepwalking occurs during the slow wave sleep stage in a state of low consciousness and a person while sleep walking can perform activities that are usually performed during a stage of low consciousness. Following are the activities which a person can preform while sleepwalking:

  • Sitting up in bed,
  • Walking to bathroom,
  • Cleaning,
  • Cooking which is quite dangerous,
  • Driving,
  • Violent gestures,
  • Grabbing at hallucinated objects and,
  • Homicide.

A person suffering from sleepwalking do not remember, or have no memory of whatever he or she has done while sleepwalking. Sleepwalking can range between thirty seconds to thirty minutes. It occurs during slow-wave sleep ( N3 ) of non-rapid eye movement sleep ( NREM ) sleep.

Someone who is sleeping will or may:

  • May leave the house,
  • Drive a car,
  • Engage in sexual activity without awareness,
  • Get injured.
Sleep walking and its causes
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Sub-types of Sleep Walking

There are two sub-types of sleep walking.

  • Sleep walking with sleep related eating and
  • Sleep walking with sleep related sexual behaviour.

In sleep eating a person eats while sleep walking and the main reason behind this is stress, sleep medication, such as Ambien.

Causes of Sleep Walking

The cause of sleep walking is not known! There are a number of hypotheses which give us some cause behind sleep walking. Following are the various causes but one should remember that there is not definite cause behind it:

  • The first reason is a delay in the maturity of the nervous system,
  • Increase in the slow wave sleep,
  • Sleep deprivation,
  • Fever and Excessive tiredness.

According to some studies, in 45 percent of the cases, children who sleepwalked had one parent who sleep walked. And this rose to 60 percent if both of the parents sleep walked. Some medications can also be the reason behind sleep walking, following are the reasons:

  • Benzodiazepine receptors agonists,
  • GABA modulators,
  • Anti-depressants,
  • And other serotonergic agents.

Parkinson’s also can raise the possibility of sleepwalking.

In a study named “sleepwalking and sleep terrors in prepubera childrens”, it was found that if a child has another sleep disorder such as restless leg syndrome ( RLS ), or sleep disorder breathing ( SDB ), then they were at a great risk of getting sleep walking. In some cases, adult who sleep walked can be  a symptom of a psychological disorder. Following is the list of diseases in which sleep waking occurs or can occurs:

  • Schizophrenia,
  • Hysteria,
  • Anxiety neuroses,
  • Migraines headaches and,
  • Tourette syndrome  ( patients with this syndrome are four to five times much more prone to other patients ).
Sleep Walking and its causes
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How can sleepwalking be treated?

Sleep walking is a dangerous disease as a person has no control over it. There are no practices which reveal as to there are any pharmacological or psychological intervention is effective in preventing sleepwalking episodes. But despite this there are many practices used on  sleepwalkers. Following is the list of these types of practices:

  • Hypnosis,
  • Scheduled or anticipatory walking,
  • Assertion training,
  • Relaxation training,
  • Managing aggressive feelings,
  • Sleep hygiene,
  • Classical conditioning,
  • Play therapy.
Crime and sleep walking

Sleep walking can sometimes turns dangerous and can cause injury, assault, or ca even death of other person, and also of the person who is sleep walking. There is no way to find out that the incident which took place because of sleep walking or not, but based on the behavior and condition of the crime scene and person involved it can be concluded as to how the incident happened. Following are the some of the cases involving sleep walking in defense :

  • This case is of 1846, a person named Albert Tirell used sleep walking as a defense against charges of murdering Maria Bickford who was a prostitute living in a Boston brothel.
  • In 1981, a person named Steven Steinberg, of Scottsdale, Arizona was accused of killing his wife but was later acquitted on the grounds of temporary insanity.
  • In 1992, a person named R.V. Parks was accused of killing his mother-in-law, and also in attempt to kill his father-in-law, but later he was acquitted by the Supreme court of Canada.
Facts related to sleep walking

Some sleep walkers can remember what they have done! As we have already told you that brain is half conscious maybe this can be the reason behind it, though we are not sure as it is entirely true or not!!

Yes, this not a myth, stress can actually trigger sleep walking.

Sleep walking is not so common disease, but it can be treated and controlled. For example: person who is suffering from sleep walking can be made tied to his or her bed so that they cannot escape from their bed, or video cameras can be installed to check out what the person do while sleep walking to take future measures.


An MBA, Entrepreneur and Blogger. Aim is to become a millionaire. ;)

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