Sleepwalking

Definition

Sleepwalking is a type of sleep disorder. A person who is sleepwalking may walk around or do other complex behaviors while still asleep. It may be as simple as sitting up in bed or as complex as leaving the house and going for a drive.

Causes    TOP

It is not clear what causes sleepwalking. Some people are more likely to sleepwalk than others. The sleepwalking may be triggered by:

Hyperthyroidism

hyperthyroid
Hyperthyroidism is an abnormal condition of the thyroid. It can affect many of the body's systems, including glands in the brain that can interfere with proper sleep.
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Risk Factors    TOP

Sleepwalking is more common in children up to about 12 years old. But, it can last into adulthood.

Your chances of sleepwalking are higher if you have:

  • Certain genes
  • A family history

Symptoms    TOP

Sleepwalking is the most common symptom. It may also be with:

  • Unresponsiveness
  • Open eyes
  • Clumsy movements that don't make sense
  • Talking
  • Not remembering the event

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. You may have:

  • EEG—to measure brain activity during sleep
  • Sleep study—the event may be recorded on video

Treatment    TOP

The most common methods are:

Strategies to Prevent Injury

You will need to:

  • Remove dangerous objects from your room.
  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked.

Hypnosis

Some cases of sleepwalking can be treated with hypnosis.

Awakening    TOP

You will be asked to keep track of what time of night the sleepwalking tends to occur. You then schedule a wake up just before that time. This may help stop the sleepwalking.

Medicines    TOP

Medicines that may help reduce sleepwalking:

  • Sedatives
  • Antidepressants

Prevention    TOP

To help lower the chances of sleepwalking:

  • Increase the amount of time scheduled for sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and certain medicines that may trigger sleepwalking.
  • Have a regular bedtime routine.

RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
https://www.familydoctor.org
National Sleep Foundation
https://sleepfoundation.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
https://www.aboutkidshealth.ca
Better Sleep Council Canada
http://www.bettersleep.ca

References:

Sleepwalking. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115035/Sleepwalking. Updated June 27, 2017. Accessed August 22, 2018.
Sleepwalking. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/sleepwalking. Updated April 1, 2014. Accessed August 22, 2018.
Sleepwalking. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at:
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Accessed August 22, 2018.
Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 8/22/2018

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