Treatments, Prevention, and Causes of Sleepwalking

Health / Life

woman sleep walking/ Photo By Africa Studio via Shutterstock


Somnambulism or commonly called as sleepwalking is a behavior disorder of combined wakefulness and sleep. This is more common in children than adults, and likely to happen when the person is deprived of sleep. While it may appear amusing at the start, this can be harmful to the health and should not be ignored.

Understanding More about Sleepwalking

Usually, sleepwalking involves more than just walking while sleeping. Some sleepwalker simply sits up in bed and looks around, walking around the house or room, or leaving the house or even driving in long distances while sleeping. Since a sleepwalker remains in a deep sleep all throughout the sleepwalking episode, they may not actually remember the incident by the time they wake up.


baby's feet under a comfy blanket/ Photo By belander via Shutterstock


The Prevalence of Infant Sleepwalking

Sleepwalking can begin at any time when the child already starts to crawl or walk. About 15 percent of all young children experience this episode at some point in their lives. The prevalence of infant sleepwalking is higher than in adults, especially those between three to seven years old. It is believed that this behavior disorder is common to kids with sleep apnea. Furthermore, kids who experience bedwetting have a higher instance of experiencing sleepwalking.


man sleep walking/ Photo By Africa Studio via Shutterstock


The Sleepwalking Causes

The various hypothesis suggested sleepwalking causes include a delay in the maturity of the nervous system, excessive tiredness, fever, sleep deprivation, and slow wave sleep. There may also be a genetic component related to sleepwalking. A study shows that 45% of kids who sleepwalk have a parent who also has the same disorder. 

How to Stop an Adult Sleepwalker

Adult sleepwalking is a potentially serious behavior disorder that may not only affect the person’s health-related quality of life but can also induce violent behavior while in sleep. That is why the once-considered benign condition should not be ignored. To stop an adult sleepwalker, make sure that there is a sleep sleeping environment. This means that the environment should be free from sharp and harmful objects. 

To do this, gently turn around the adult sleepwalker and make sure that they will lie down or return to their bed safely. If the person resists, just stay with them and guide them to avoid perilous situations and objects. Should you awaken them, use loud noises and not by roughly touching or shaking them.


man comfortably sleeping on his bed/ Photo By Vadim Guzhva via 123RF


The Sleepwalking Diagnosis

The sleepwalking diagnosis includes polysomnography. It is believed to be an accurate measure of the disorder. In polysomnography, it records the brain waves oxygen level in the blood, breathing, heart rate, leg movements, and the eye movements of the patient during the study. This is usually conducted in a sleep center or a sleep disorder unit within the hospital. This test helps monitor the sleep cycle and identify why the sleep patterns are being disrupted and the reasons why it occurs.

A diagnosis may also include housemate, partner, parent, or self-report. However, sleepwalking is not the same as drug- or alcohol-induced blackouts.


therapist working with patient on hypnosis/ Photo By Katarzyna Białasiewicz via 123RF


What Involves the Sleepwalking Treatment

There is really no particular sleepwalking treatment. In most cases, the approach is to simply improve the sleep hygiene of the person to reduce or completely eliminate the sleepwalking. For some adults, they may undergo hypnosis. This involves reduced peripheral awareness and a more focused attention. Many cases of patients who sleepwalk have successfully treated the symptoms with the use of hypnosis alone.

Pharmacological therapies may likewise be used. This includes the use of antidepressants or sedative-hypnosis to reduce the sleepwalking incidence.

It is also critical to prevent injury during episodes of sleepwalking. That is why having a safe sleep environment is also suggested. For instance, for parents whose child sleepwalks, it is best not to let the child sleep in a bunk bed. It is also ideal to remove the breakable objects near the bed. Installing gates on the stairways or locking the windows and doors are also part of a safe sleep environment.