Sleepwalking

I learned a lot about sleepwalking when I was doing the research for Dream Walker.  Sleepwalking is a fascinating sleep disorder in which people carry out complex behaviors while still in the deepest part of the sleep cycle.  Sleepwalkers’ eyes are often open, and they can even speak with you.  The next morning, though, they’ll carry no memory of their actions.  Sleepwalking can be harmless if sleepers are in a familiar environment, but their behavior can be dangerous to others or themselves if not addressed.

Here are ten things I learned:

  1. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleepwalking occurs in 1-15% of the population.
  2. Sleepwalking is more common in children and can run in families.
  3. Waking a sleepwalker can lead to confusion and anger, but you should gently guide a sleepwalker back to bed.
  4. Sleepwalking is not someone acting out their dreams.  If the behavior happens early in the night, during deep sleep, it’s typically sleepwalking.  If it happens later, during the dream state, it can be REM behavior disorder (RBD).  That’s when people act out their dreams.
  5. Sleepwalking can be triggered by stress, sleep deprivation, alcohol, or anything that can cause you to wake up more easily.
  6. Sleepwalkers often find bruises that they can’t remember getting, because they run into things while walking in their sleep.  They often take care to close drawers, push in chairs, or tuck away things over which they might trip.
  7. People don’t just sleepwalk.  There have been cases of sleep driving, sleep texting, sleep sex, and other really complex behaviors.
  8. People who live alone might not even know they sleepwalk, unless they wake up during the middle of it or find evidence of their nightly actions.
  9. There is no treatment for sleepwalking, other than getting better sleep.  Sleep medications like Ambien have even been known to exacerbate sleepwalking.
  10. One trick sleepwalkers use is to tie a bell to their door to wake them or others if they try to leave the room.

This piece by the Today Show has a lot of good information on the sleep disorder.  Have you ever sleepwalked?

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