Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

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  ^

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  ^

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  ^

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  ^

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  ^

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

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

Medicines that may help reduce sleepwalking:

  • Sedatives
  • Antidepressants

Prevention  ^

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
https://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: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/abnormal-sleep-behaviors/sleepwalking. Accessed August 22, 2018.

Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD  Last Updated: 8/22/2018