Waking up in different places than where you went to sleep without any recollection of how you ended up there? While it is most common in children, sleepwalking can occur in adults, too.
The Mayo Clinic website defined sleepwalking as “getting up and walking around while asleep.” Even though it’s not dangerous in itself, it can put a person in a problematic (and potentially dangerous) situation.
The Cleveland Clinic further classifies this behavior by listing other activities that fall under the term sleepwalking. These behaviors include talking in one’s sleep, not responding to questions, sitting up in bed with the eyes open but looking confused, or doing repetitive motions (such as rubbing the eyes).
Some sleepwalkers only wander in their homes at night, but in some instances may go outside or start driving their vehicles.
The Cleveland Clinic said that sleepwalking “tends to occur within an hour or two of falling asleep and may last on average between 5 and 15 minutes.”
According to Medline Plus, which is information maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, sleepwalking most often happens when people are in non-REM sleep. This means it happens before they go into the rapid eye moment stage, which is the dream phase and generally occurs right before waking up in the morning.
It can be triggered by a variety of factors including a family history of the behavior, certain medications, alcohol, stress, anxiety, or it can be part of certain disorders.
Since sleepwalkers are not thinking when the behavior is taking place, it is important to secure their safety. Locking door and windows, hiding car keys and de-cluttering the house can help ensure that your loved ones stay safe when they are prone to this behavior.
Most sleepwalkers do not need treatment. For some people, however, “your doctor may recommend a treatment method called scheduled awakening. This treatment works as follows: for several nights you record the time between when your child falls asleep and the beginning of the sleepwalking event. Then for the next several nights in a row, you arouse your child 15 minutes before the expected time of the event. You do not need to completely awaken the child, simply disturb the sleep enough to a brief arousal. This disrupts the sleep cycle transiently and may abort the sleepwalking in some cases,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Sleepwalking should decrease after childhood, but it the incidence of sleepwalking episodes remains frequent in adulthood, a doctor’s visit may be in order. He or she can determine if medication or treatment is an option.
Dugdale, David C., MD. "Sleepwalking: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 May 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2013.
"Sleepwalking: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options." Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 26 Jan. 2009. Web. 21 Feb. 2013. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/sleep_disorders/hic_sleepwalking...
Staff, Mayo Clinic. "Definition." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 Aug. 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sleepwalking/DS01009
Reviewed February 21, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN