Have you ever caught yourself sleepwalking? I remember two times in my life that I did this. The first incident occurred when I was about 8 years old. I walked into my sister’s room, pulled down my underwear, and was about to begin urinating on the floor when my mother’s scream of, “What are you doing?!?” woke me from my state of sleep. The second incident happened when I was older, I believe around the age of 18. My father had asked me to wake him in the morning when I would be getting up for work, which would have been around 6 AM. Because I had to wake up early the next morning, I went to bed early that night. I “woke” up, went into my parent’s room, looked at their clock, shook my dad on the shoulder and said to him, “Dad, wake up. It’s twelve-fifteen. It’s time to wake up.” My dad replied, “Honey, it’s the middle of the night, go back to bed,” which effectively woke me out of my sleepwalking state. Maybe I had other sleepwalking incidents and don’t remember them. Maybe these events were isolated. Either way, these events have me wondering, what causes sleepwalking?
Somnambulism, or what most people know as sleepwalking, is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an abnormal condition of sleep in which motor acts (such as walking) are performed”. This means that sleepwalking is not limited to walking around, but it can include things such as going from a lying to a sitting position while sleeping. It can even include doing such activities as going into the kitchen and opening the refrigerator. There are a variety of triggers that can lead to sleepwalking, including:
- Pain, such as from headaches or that which is caused by menstruation
- Sleep Deprivation
- Head injuries including, but not limited to, stroke and encephalitis
- Medical conditions including fever, heartburn, heart rhythm issues, sleep apnea, panic attacks, and many more
What if you find that you or a loved one are experiencing sleepwalking? Is there anything you can do to make this condition go away? Typically, they find that sleepwalking in children goes away on its own. For adults, it’s best to determine the cause of the sleepwalking to curb this behavior. If this becomes a habitual activity at night, be cognizant that you may want to remove or relocate any items that can cause injury if used while sleeping. Some have found relief through the use of prescribed antidepressants or sedative-hypnotic class drugs, while others have utilized hypnosis to cure this condition. As always, if you find yourself sleepwalking more than once it may be time to talk to your physician or other qualified medical professional.