Sleepwalking is a type of sleep disorder known as a parasomnia. Parasomnias are abnormal behavior during sleep. In fact, parasomnias straddle a border between sleep and wakefulnesswhich is why the actions that occur during parasomnia episodes are abnormal. Parasomnias can be categorized based on the part of the sleep cycle during which they occur.
Along with other parasomnias like sleep talkingconfusional arousals, and sleep terrors, sleepwalking is classified as an NREM disorder of arousal. The symptoms of sleepwalking can involve various types of simple or complex actions that a person does while still mostly asleep. During an episode, a person may have open, glassy eyes with a blank look on their face. They are usually minimally responsive or incoherent in their speech.
It is important to recognize that, despite the name, sleepwalking is not limited to walking. Other types of actions can occur and are still under the umbrella of sleepwalking. Examples include running, routine actions like getting dressed, moving furniture, engaging in sexual behavior sexsomniaor urinating in inappropriate places.
Less often, behaviors can be violent or may be more complex, including trying to drive a car. Sleepwalking episodes can last for a few seconds to a half an hour with most finishing in less than 10 minutes. The person may return to bed and go back to sleep on their own, or they may wake up confused while they are still out of bed.
A key symptom of sleepwalking and other NREM parasomnias is that the person virtually never has a recollection of the episode when they wake up. For that reason, they most often learn about their sleepwalking from a family member or housemate. Another Sleepwalkin element of NREM parasomnias is that they typically occur during the first third or half of the night when a person tends to spend a higher percentage of time in deep NREM sleep stages. Sleepwalking occurs more often among children than adults.
In addition, studies sometimes define sleepwalking in different ways. There can be serious health consequences from sleepwalking. Injury can occur if a person trips Sleepwalkin falls or collides with something while walking or running. Mishandling of sharp objects or trying to drive a car during an episode can be life-threatening.
Violent behavior can cause harm to the sleepwalker or others. Actions during sleepwalking episodes may bring embarrassment. For example, a person may feel ashamed about sexually explicit behavior, aggressive outbursts, or urinating in the wrong place.
Studies have found that people who sleepwalk have higher levels of excessive daytime sleepiness and insomnia symptoms. It is not known if these problems arise because of actual disturbances from sleepwalking or if there is an underlying factor affecting their sleep that makes them at risk for both sleepwalking and daytime drowsiness. Sleep experts believe that sleepwalking normally happens when a person is in a stage of deep sleep and gets partially awoken in a way that triggers physical activity while remaining mostly asleep.
Children who sleepwalk may find that episodes stop occurring as they get older, or they may continue to sleepwalk as adults.
Even though most sleepwalking starts in childhood, the condition can begin in adulthood as well. In many cases, sleepwalking requires no active treatment because episodes are rare and pose little risk to the sleeper or those around them. Episodes often get less frequent with age, so for some people, sleepwalking is resolved on its own with any specific therapy. When it is necessary to take steps to address sleepwalking, there are a number of approaches that may be incorporated into a treatment plan.
Harm reduction is an important consideration Sleepwalkin people who sleepwalk. In Augustthe famous soprano Jenny Lind visited Manchesterand gave two performances as Amina. The outstanding difference between Lind and her contemporaries was that, "whilst the beauty of her voice was far greater than any other in living memory thus, the Swedish Nightingalewhat really set her apart was her outstanding ability to act"; and, moreover, in performing as Amina, rather than walking along a wide and well-protected walkway as the others didshe routinely acrobatically balanced her way along narrow planks.
While she was in Manchester—on the basis that, at the time, many characterized " hypnotism " as " artificial somnambulism ",  and that, from a Sleepwalkin different perspective, her stage performance could also be described as one of "artificial" rather than spontaneous somnambulism—her friends arranged for her to visit the local surgeon James Braidwho had discovered hypnotism in  .
Sleepwalking can sometimes result in injury, assault, or the death of someone else. Because these sleepwalking behaviours occur without volition, sleepwalking can be used as a legal defense. Alternative explanations, such as malingering and alcohol and drug-induced amnesia, need to be excluded. The differential diagnosis may also include other conditions in which violence related to sleep is a risk, such as REM Sleep Behavior Disorder RSBDfugue statesand episodic wandering. In the case of the law, an individual can be accused of non-insane automatism or insane automatism.
The first is used as a defense for temporary insanity or involuntary conduct, resulting in acquittal. The latter results in a "special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. Media related to Sleepwalking at Wikimedia Commons. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Sleeping phenomenon combined with wakefulness. This article is about the sleep disorder. For other uses, see Sleepwalking disambiguationSleepwalker disambiguationand Sleepwalk disambiguation. Medical condition. The ICD classification of mental and behavioural disorders: Clinical descriptions and diagnostic guidelines. Version Geneva: World Health Organization.
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Ugeskr Laeger. The British Journal of Psychiatry. BMC Neuroscience. ISSN S2CID Two cases of premenstrual sleep terrors and injurious sleep-walking. Accessed May 9, National Sleep Foundation. Accessed May 10, American Academy of Family Physicians. Merck Manual Professional Version. Sateia M. International Classification of Sleep Disorders.
Darien, Ill. Kotagal S. Sleepwalking and other parasomnias in children. Foldvary-Schaefer N. Polysomnography sleep study. National Sleep Foundation. Sleepwalking: Why It Happens. Table of Contents View All. Table of Contents. Causes and Risk Factors. Diagnosis and Treatment. Causes and Treatments for Sleepwalking in Children.
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