Many people aren't aware that genetics plays a huge role in sleep walking— which involves getting up and walking around while in a state of sleep. More common in children than adults, sleepwalking is usually outgrown by the teen years, but can return in later years. According to the National Sleep Foundation about 8.4 million Americans suffer from sleep walking.
Common Symptoms of Sleepwalking
- Get out of bed and walk around
- Have a glazed, glassy-eyed expression
- Do routine activities, such as getting dressed, talking or making a snack
- Not respond or communicate with others
- Be disoriented or confused for a short time after being awakened
- Not remember the episode in the morning
- Have sleep terrors in addition to sleepwalking
If this occurs more than one to two times per week, it's time to visit your doctor. It could lead to dangerous behavior or even a injury. It also causes significant sleep disturbance. Sleepwalking is often caused by sleep deprivation, fatigue, stress, depression, anxiety, fever, sleep schedule disruptions and some medications and substances.
Some of the craziest things people who sleep walk have been known to do are:
- Cook a three-course meal
- Waking up to an entire text conversation you don't remember
- Roam the house
- Talk or scream
- Act out their dreams
There are two main categories of sleep walking:
- those that occur during REM sleep
- those that occur during deeper Stage 3 sleep.
So why do they happen? There’s no clear reason, but the two main triggers are sleep deprivation and stress. Other times, certain medications and conditions like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome (RLS) are the cause.
Medical Conditions Linked to Sleep Walking
- Heart rhythm problems
- Nighttime asthma
- Nighttime seizures
- Obstructive sleep apnea (a condition in which you briefly stop breathing during sleep)
- Restless leg syndrome
- Psychiatric disorders, for example, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, or dissociative states, such as multiple personality disorder
As far as treating this disorder, in children and teens it tends to go away on its own, however if it continues you should visit your doctor right away.
Sleepwalking can occur when sleep is fragmented by other sleeping problems. Obstructive sleep apnea (trouble breathing during sleep) is a common medical problem that can lead to sleep walking. Treatment of sleep apnea may improve sleepwalking.