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Definition

Sleepwalking is a type of sleep disorder. A person who is sleepwalking may walk around or do other complex behaviors while still asleep. It may be as simple as sitting up in bed or as complex as leaving the house and going for a drive.

Causes

It is not clear exactly what causes sleepwalking. Some people are more likely to sleepwalk. The sleepwalking may be triggered by:

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of sleepwalking include:

  • Family history of sleepwalking
  • Being a child—most common in preschool to pre-adolescence

Hyperthyroidism

hyperthyroid

Hyperthyroidism is an abnormal condition of the thyroid. It can affect many of the body's systems, including glands in the brain that can interfere with proper sleep.

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Symptoms

Along with walking during sleep, other symptoms can include:

  • Sitting up in bed and repeating certain movements such as rubbing eyes or fumbling with clothes
  • Talking in your sleep
  • Difficulty arousing during a sleepwalking episode
  • Doing inappropriate behavior during a sleepwalking episode such as urinating in closets
  • Becoming violent when a person tries to wake you
  • Not remembering the event
Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will be asked about your:

  • Family history
  • Fatigue
  • Medication
  • Underlying illness or stress

Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist. You may need to have a sleep study done in a medical clinic.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Strategies to Prevent Injury

Your doctor will help you prevent injury during sleepwalking by recommending that you:

  • Remove dangerous objects from your room
  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked
Hypnosis

Some cases of sleepwalking can be treated with hypnosis.

Awakening

Your doctor will ask you to keep track of what time of night the sleepwalking tends to occur. You then schedule a wake up just before that time. This may help stop the sleepwalking.

Medications

Medications that may help reduce sleepwalking include:

  • Sedative-hypnotics
  • Antidepressants
Prevention

To help reduce the chances of sleepwalking, take the following steps:

  • Increase the amount of time scheduled for sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and certain medications that may trigger sleepwalking.
  • Have a regular bedtime routine.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.familydoctor.org

National Sleep Foundation
http://www.sleepfoundation.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

About Kids Health
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

The Better Sleep Council Canada
http://bettersleep.org

References:

Guilleminault C, Kirisoglu C, et al. Adult chronic sleepwalking and its treatment based on polysomnography. Brain. 2005; 128:1062-1069.

Guilleminault C, Palombini L, et al. Sleepwalking and sleep terrors in prepubertal children: what triggers them?. Pediatrics. 2003;111:17-25.

Hafeez ZH, Kalinowski CM. Somnambulism induced by quetiapine: two case reports and a review of the literature. CNS Spectrums. 2007;12:910-912.

Pressman MR. Factors that predispose, prime and precipitate NREM parasomnias in adults: clinical and forensic implications. Sleep Med Rev. 2007:11:5-30

Sleepwalking. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated January 1, 2011. Accessed June 4, 2013.

Sleepwalking. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/sleepwalking.html. Updated November 2010. Accessed June 4, 2013.

Sleepwalking. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/sleepwalking Accessed June 4, 2013.



Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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