You may know someone who walks in their sleep, or have heard stories about it. You may be a sleepwalker yourself, and might not even be aware of the extent of your condition. According to research conducted from a sleep study published in the Neurology Journal, neurology.org states that sleepwalking is a fairly common occurrence for people in the United States, more than the originally hypothesized two percent. Results of the study have shown that about 8.4 million people or 3.6 percent of adults in the United States sleepwalk annually. So, what is it, and what do you do about sleepwalking?
The head of this sleepwalking study, Dr. Maurice Ohayon – a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center in Palo Alto, California – wants people to see that due to the study’s results, this huge number of people in the United States that do sleepwalk, prove that sleepwalking is not rare, and definitely not a myth.
Sleepwalking is a condition called somnambulism, which occurs when people get up and do a variety of activities or walk while they are asleep. There have been some weird stories and videos out there that show people going outside, cooking weird concoctions, and even driving – all while asleep. This is dangerous, but in order to understand the sleepwalking phenomenon and why it occurs, scientists continue to conduct research into somnambulism, studying what is going on in a sleepwalker’s brain.
To put it in perspective, when someone sleepwalks, the parts of the brain responsible for our behaviors are actually awake, while the area of our brain responsible for storing our memories, and decision making, is asleep. In other words, what happens during a sleepwalking episode takes place without conscious awareness, and this is why people who do sleepwalk usually have no recollection of the incident or what they do.
If you experience a sleepwalker, it is not harmless to try to wake them up, although it can be particularly hard to wake them up in this state. It is entirely possible for them to become agitated and disoriented. While you should watch out for a flailing arm, it’s more important to get the person out of harm’s way – considering they could fall down stairs, or even start a car! The best thing to do is to guide a person who is sleepwalking back to bed, and give them an account of what happened when they wake up.
Somnambulism is a sleep disorder that can be tested for and diagnosed by a sleep specialist. To learn more about sleepwalking and other sleep disorders, call Lung & Sleep Specialists of North Texas at (817) 594-9993 or you can use our online appointment request form.