Sleep walking or somnambulism is a common behavior disorder among children and adults which originates in deep sleep and manifests in the form of walking or indulging in a series of complex behaviors while asleep. Typically, all the action happens in deep sleep and hence, he/she may find it difficult to wake up and hence may not remember the incident once awake.
The symptoms are:
- Simply waking up in the middle of deep sleep
- Sitting up and looking around
- Walking around the house
- Leaving the house in deep slumber
- Driving long distances in a state of sleep
- Talking (somniloquy) or screaming in sleep
- Sleepiness during the day
- No memory of the event
- Associated injury
- Inappropriate social behaviour like urinating in closets
The risks associated with sleep walking are:
- Difficulty in waking up the sleepwalker
- The dangers of not waking up a sleepwalker
- Counter-productive retaliation in the form of physical attacks by the sleepwalker
The symptoms of sleepwalking and associated triggers are the basis for the diagnosis for sleepwalking. A deeper investigation of any underlying illness is a must. There could be other factors contributing to sleepwalking - lack of sleep, fatigue, medication, stress, alcohol and the like.
There is no clear marked treatment for this condition. Some of the general approaches are -
- Starts with reassurance that it is a passing phase, benign by nature and will disappear.
- Avoid any auditory, tactile and visual stimuli during the sleep cycle.
- Improving sleep conditions and the hygiene around it may gradually eliminate the problem.
- Medical advice has to be sought to rule out and prevent any physical injury during the sleep walking period.
- Hypnosis and pharmacological therapies have improved the quality of sleep and helped treat this disease.