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Sleepwalking also known as somnambulism is a condition where a person walks or moves around as if they are awake, when they are actually asleep. Sleepwalkers may perform a variety of activities while asleep, including getting dressed, going to the bathroom, eating, or moving furniture. This condition most commonly occurs in children.

Symptoms and Causes of Sleepwalking

Sleepwalking symptoms disorder range from simply sitting up in the bed and repeating movements, such as rubbing eyes or tugging on pajamas, looking around, to walking around in the room or house, leaving the house and even driving for long distances. The sleepwalker does not respond during the whole event and usually does not remember it also. Typically, the sleepwalker’s eyes are open with a glassy stare as he/she roams around the house. Sleepwalkers may talk while walking and also urinate in undesirable places.

Sleepwalking causes include:
– Hereditary (the condition may run in families, Identical twins are more likely to sleepwalk),
– Lack of sleep or fatigue,
– Interrupted sleep or inefficient sleep,
– Illness or fever, drunkenness,
– Certain medications (which promote relaxation or sleep),
– Anxiety,
– Stress,
– Noisy sleep environment/different sleep environment.

Medical conditions that have been linked to sleepwalking include:

  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Fever
  • Heartburn
  • 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 disorders or dissociative states, such as multiple personality disorder

Sleepwalking most commonly occurs in children ages 4 to 8. It’s most likely to take place during deep non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and early in the night — about one to two hours after going to sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, you can and should awaken a sleepwalker while they are sleepwalking. Wake them gently so as not to startle them. However, a sleepwalking person is typically difficult to wake and will at first be confused about where they are. Gently lead the individual back to their bed. Most sleepwalkers have no recollection of their sleepwalking episodes. Sleepwalking does not occur during a nap because the sleep achieved is not deep enough.

There is no known way to absolutely prevent or cure sleepwalking; however, certain steps can be taken to minimize one’s risk. These include:
* Get adequate sleep.
* Limit stress. Meditate or do relaxation exercises.
* Avoid any kind of stimulation both auditory and  visual prior to bedtime.
* Keep a safe sleeping environment, free of harmful or sharp objects.
* Sleep in a bedroom on the ground floor, if possible.
* Lock the doors and windows.
* Cover glass windows with heavy drapes.
* Place an alarm or bell on the bedroom door.

Sleepwalking is not always a cause for concern. Most children grow out of it. However, if your sleepwalking has led to injury or if you frequently experience several sleepwalking episodes in a row, you may want to see a doctor to rule out any potential medical conditions that may be causing the problem.

Keep yourself safe, keep your environment safe and most importantly, keep your children safe!

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