Sleepwalking is a type of sleep disorder known as a parasomnia. This happens when a person partially awakens during the night, walks, or does other complex behaviors while still technically asleep.
Some causes of sleepwalking include:
These factors increase your chance of walking in your sleep. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
Being a child (most common in preschool to preadolescence)
Having a psychiatric disorders (eg,
post-traumatic stress syndrome Being sleep deprived Having
sleep apnea Wetting the bed (in children) Taking certain medications Hyperthyroidism
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.
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If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume they are due to sleepwalking. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your doctor:
Walking during deep sleep Sitting up in bed and repeating certain movements (eg, rubbing eyes, fumbling with clothes) Talking in your sleep Difficulty arousing during a sleepwalking episode Doing inappropriate behavior during a sleepwalking episode (eg, urinating in closets) Screaming during sleepwalking episodes Becoming violent when a person tries to wake you
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. She will also do a physical exam. 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
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
Your doctor will help you prevent injury during sleepwalking by recommending that you:
Remove dangerous objects Keep doors and windows closed and locked
Some cases of sleepwalking can be treated with
These medications may be helpful in reducing the incidence of sleepwalking:
Sedative-hypnotics Tranquilizers Antidepressants
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.
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Hafeez ZH, Kalinowski CM. Somnambulism induced by quitapine: two case reports and a review of the literature.
Pressman MR. Factors that predispose, prime and precipitate NREM parasomnias in adults: clinical and forensic implications.
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Sleepwalking. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at:
September 26, 2006.
Sleepwalking in children. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
. Accessed September 26, 2006.
Somnambulism (sleepwalking). eMedicine website. Available at: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1188854-overview. Accessed January 3, 2006.
Last reviewed January 2009 by
Rimas Lukas, 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
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