In all of written history, stories were told in different tongues and passed on for generations. About stories of people walking unconsciously at night. Some say that they are under the influence of a supernatural force trying to impose their will on the lowly victim. Others declare it as the act of some demon. Or evil presence subliminally controlling them while trying to spread evil in the mortal plane. Different religions and cultures have a different explanation about this, mostly in a more sinister tone. Is being able to walk while sleeping possible? What could be the explanation for this? Is this a real medical condition, or a product of our playful mind trying to explain something unreal?
Sleepwalking is also known as Somnambulism or Noctambulism. And it is a phenomenon observed throughout history by different people in which a person is awake and asleep at the same time. (Much like Schrodinger’s cat). Thus, this is also considered a sleep disorder under Parasomnia. And this happens during slow-wave sleep or deep sleep. But instead of just staying motionless, the sleeper can do feats such as walking, or sleeping. Or other actions usually performed during the state of full consciousness.
Sleepwalking is a Sleep Disorder
Sleepwalking is considered a sleep disorder because for one; this is not a regular sleeping habit in any way. And two, this disrupts the person normal sleeping routine, especially if awakened during sleepwalking. Thus, it is a common misconception not to wake the person sleepwalking. But in reality, it is advised to wake them up, especially if they pose as a potential danger to others or may hurt themselves in the process.
Sleepwalking is not exclusive to just walking; other actions can be possible too. People who are observed to sleepwalk are also seen just sitting on their bed, walking around the room, going to the fridge to drink water, or even driving their car for long distances. Kids around the age of three to seven years old are more prone to this compared to adults. And there is no underlying medical issue, psychological or psychiatric problems associated with this.
Causes of Sleepwalking
There are a few factors that cause sleepwalking, mainly:
- A hereditary trait that runs through the person’s bloodline
- Illnesses, such as fever
- Going to bed before emptying your bladder
- Environmental distractions, such as noise, bright light, temperature, etc.,
- Taking sedative-hypnotic sleep medications such as Eszopiclone, Triazolam, and Zolpidem.
- Other drugs such as Neuroleptics, stimulants, minor tranquilizers, and sometimes antihistamines
- Anxiety and stress
- Pregnancy and menstruation for women (known to increase the instances of sleepwalking)
Symptoms of Sleepwalking
Common symptoms of sleepwalking are as follows:
- Instances of walking around the room or within the premises like a zombie (minus the hands held forward)
- Sometimes, they may sit on their bed, go and take a leak. (Kids sometimes do this, or other inappropriate places to pee). Or even get some water and drink
- Dead fish eyes, mostly open and have a thousand-yard stare. (They cannot consciously see you, or their path during sleepwalking, even their eyes are open)
- Upon questioning, their answer ranges from gibberish or anything nonsense to responses with pure thoughts and few words. If the person goes back to bed without waking them, they will have no recollection of the event.
- They talk during their sleep.
- Sometimes, they mostly don’t answer when called while they sleepwalk.
How Can It Be Treated?
Commonly, sleepwalking can be treated with medications prescribed by your doctor, such as Klonopin (an anticonvulsant to calm the brain). And Prosom (a sedative that helps the person taking it to fall asleep quicker). There are also fundamental ways that you can avoid sleepwalking, such as getting more restful, sound sleep, always follow your specific bedtime routine. And as much as possible, do not disrupt it, limit alcohol and caffeine intake, have a healthy diet and workout more often. These steps will significantly decrease your chance of sleepwalking while improving the quality of your sleep at the same time.
As it turns out, Sleepwalking is a real phenomenon. Early people will explain it as a work of the supernatural since they don’t have any concrete explanation about it. (And it is convenient to make stories out of it and blame it to the unknown instead of a more scientific approach to the matter). Doctors, physicians, and experts nowadays have made studies to treat this phenomenon and to diagnose them. Sleepwalking in its essence is not a bad thing that directly harms the body. But the actions made during sleepwalking may cause harm to the one doing it, or even the people around him.