Sleepwalking’s mystique has never failed to captivate and confuse medical science. Over centuries, we’ve evolved complex monitoring machines and strapped in sleepwalkers, mapping brain waves in pursuit of any explanation, however science still falls silent as to why some of us rise zombie-like from slumber to shamble through the night.
While we may never truly know why people sleepwalk, doctors have had some success in diagnosing and treating the condition. We’ve learned that sleepwalking often occurs during the shift from deep to light sleep stages, and we know that out of anyone, children ages four to eight are most likely to sleepwalk. Glazed, dimly staring eyes, sluggish movements, and even slower responses likely indicate a sleepwalking episode, and sleep-eating is a common symptom among walkers.
Science has also found that chronic sleepwalking seems to correlate with several lifestyle factors and pre-existing medical conditions. Such indicators don’t amount to definitive causes, but are nonetheless useful in measuring the likelihood of repeated bouts.
Behavioral variables which may increase chances of sleepwalking include:
- Not getting enough sleep (sleeping at least 7 hours per night is recommended for adults)
- Inconsistent sleep scheduling
- Excessive stress
- Consuming alcohol
- Using drugs such as sleep-aids, stimulants, medication for psychosis treatment, or allergy relievers
Possible medical issues related to sleepwalking are as follows:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Nighttime asthma
- Nighttime seizures
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Restless leg syndrome
- Psychiatric disorders
If a patient’s sleepwalking episodes are spurred by the previous factors, simply treating underlying medical conditions, or limiting harmful behaviors should stop any further sleepwalking. While no prevention method is absolute, limiting bodily stress through adequate sleep, meditation or other relaxing activities will likely help stave off future bouts.
Those who sleepwalk despite taking preventative action can still avoid potential harm by keeping their sleeping environment safe. Sleepwalkers should lock bedroom doors and windows, and stow sharp, harmful objects from easy reach. If all else fails, installing a bell, alarm, or other waking device to a bedroom door can stop people from sleepwalking beyond their bedrooms.