Have you ever woken up on the couch with the lights on when you're sure you fell asleep in your bed? Or maybe you've witnessed your roommate emerge from his or her bedroom with glazed eyes, mumble and wander aimlessly.....but possess no recollection of the bizarre encounter the next morning?
You or your roommate may be one of the 2.5% of adults suffering from sleepwalking. Although not completely understood, there are ways to alleviate sleepwalking.
What is it?
It is a fairly common parasomnia, a family of sleep disorders that involve undesired events during sleep. Known among sleep specialists as somnambulism, sleepwalking is a behavioral disorder that involves performing complex behaviors during a state of low consciousness that one normally performs with full consciousness. It is more common among children (an estimated 2-14% of children), but most kids who begin sleepwalking before 10 will outgrow the disorder entirely.
What causes it?
Sleepwalking tends to cluster in families, suggesting a genetic link. The causes of sleepwalking are not completely understood, but studies have shown that you are more likely to sleepwalk if you are sleep deprived, drinking alcohol, using sedative agents or taking certain medication. It is not usually linked to other psychological problems, but a medical disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea may contribute to sleepwalking. If you are an adult sleepwalker, it is important to get assessed by a sleep specialist in order to address any potential underlying cause.
How do you alleviate it?
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for sleepwalking. In many cases, simply improving your sleep habits may eliminate the problem. Check out my other blog about 'Sleep Habits' for some tips.
How do you deal with a partner who sleepwalks?
Again, the emphasis should be on safety. There is myth that you should never wake a sleepwalker, but in fact it can be quite dangerous to not wake them. Try to gently direct the sleepwalk back to bed and be aware that he or she may become aggressive (even if that is not normally his or her personality). Remember that the sleepwalker will likely be very confused upon awakening or may have no memory at all of the event.
If sleepwalking persists, consult with a sleep specialist for a thorough assessment and recommendations.