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 hyperthyroidism
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
- Underlying illness or stress
Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist. You may need to have a sleep study done.
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
- Keep doors and windows closed and locked
Some cases of sleepwalking can be treated with hypnosis .
These medications may be helpful in reducing the incidence of sleepwalking:
American Academy of Family Physicians
National Sleep Foundation
About Kids Health
Better Sleep Council Canada
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Guilleminault C, Palombini L, Pelayo R, Chervin RD. Sleepwalking and sleep terrors in prepubertal children: what triggers them?. Pediatrics . 2003;111:17-25.
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Sleepwalking. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleeptionary/index.php?id=22&subsection=basics. Accessed September 26, 2006.
Sleepwalking in children. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/160.xml . 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
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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