Sleep walking, formally known as somnambulism, is a sleep disorder characterized by episodes of walking while the sleep disordered individual is asleep. Sleep walking usually occurs during childhood, but can stay as long as adulthood. While sleepwalking some people may do a regular routine. An example of this would be to walk downstairs and open a door then go back to sleep. Some people who suffer from a sleep walking sleep disorder also talk in their sleep.
What Causes Sleep Walking
Sleep walking can be caused by many different factors. Finding out what triggers your sleep walking can really help protect yourself and those around you. Sleep walking occurs more often in identical twins, and is ten times more likely to happen if a relative has a history of sleepwalking.
Sleep deprivation and stress have also been linked to sleep walking, as have medical conditions such as an abnormal heart rhythm, asthma, psychiatric disorders and fevers. Other medical conditions that have been linked to sleep walking include obstructive sleep apnea, gastro-esophageal reflux, and seizures. In some cases medications that help induce sleep may cause episodes of sleep walking. Another possible contributor to sleep walking is alcohol; individuals who suffer from a sleep disorder that involves sleep walking should avoid drinking alcohol.
Regardless of what is causing your sleep walking, make sure your doctor is aware of your sleep walking and you should be able to manage it and any other symptoms and side effects of your sleep disorder.
Treating Sleep Walking
There are no specific cures for sleep walking but there are many ways to treat the sleep walking aspect of your sleep disorder. Since scientists and sleep doctors are still studying sleep walking the main advice offered to people with a sleep disorder that involves sleep walking is to take steps to ensure the safety of the sleep walker. Depending on the specific habits of the person who sleep walks, these steps may vary.
Remember that people who sleep walk cannot tell the difference between right and wrong. You cannot assume that a person who is sleep walking will not do something dangerous. Therefore, it is essential that you do everything possible to minimize any possible safety hazards the sleep walker may encounter.
Here are some tips that may be helpful when managing a sleep disorder that involves sleep walking:
- Lock all windows
- Place the mattress on the floor to eliminate the chance that the person will fall out of bed while sleep walking.
- Place a bell or some other device on the door of the person who sleep walks. This will help alert others when the sleep walking behavior is taking place.
- Remove any dangerous objects from the sleep walkers room.
- Monitor the specific behaviors of the individual while they are sleep walking and make any additional environmental modifications necessary to keep the person as safe as possible while they are sleep walking.
If you need additional support in handling your sleep walking sleep disorder you should consult with your doctor or sleep specialist. You may also wish to look into a support group to connect with and learn from other people who have sleep disorders and who sleep walk. Here is a link to an online support group for sleep walkers.