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Definition

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.

Symptoms

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

Risk Factors

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

Diagnosis

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.

Treatment

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.
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