Many of you have seen in movies where people sleepwalk. They look like zombies with their eyes open, hands stretched and they have a very slow movement. During sleepwalking, the person who sleepwalk look pale with glassy eyes and are in a state of unconsciousness. They don’t respond or react to their surroundings.


How does it occur?

Sleep is divided into two distinct stages, Rapid eye movement, the state at which dreams occurs. Sleepwalking is one of the behaviours that occurs in a particular stage of sleep, which is known as Non-rapid eye movement or Somnambulism. Every human undergoes several cycles of REM and NREM during asleep. Sleepwalking often occurs at the point of the deepest NREM sleep stage known as N3 Or slow-wave sleep, when a certain part of the brain is awake. The limbic system which is responsible for emotions and the motor cortex which is responsible for complex motor movement is awake during this slow wave of sleep. The other parts of the brain is in the state of rest.

Causes of sleepwalking

  • Medications such as lithium, zolpidem tartrate and Wellbutrin
  • Lack of proper sleep
  • Alcohol consumption
  • People with airway disorders, who finds difficulty in breathing
  • Any childhood trauma
  • Migraine headaches
  • Body tiredness may lead to sleepwalking.

Is sleepwalking a serious disorder?

In most of the cases sleepwalking is not considered as a serious issue until the episodes become frequent, violent, harming others or themselves. In research conducted by some organization, violence during sleepwalking is mediated by biological, psychological and social risk factors that affects their impulse control. If this is the case consult your physician immediately.

Sleepwalking prevalence

It is more prevalent in children because as they are growing they experience less slow-wave sleep.

  • 3% of the toddlers between 2.5 and 4 years.
  • 11% of the children between 7 to 8 years.
  • 13.5% of children in 10 years.
  • 12.7% of children in 12 years.
  • It is less common in adults only

 2 to 4% are affected.



 Your doctor reviews your medical history and symptoms, which includes

  • Examination – This test is done to identify whether it is sleepwalking or some other conditions like night time seizures, any sleep disorders etc.
  • Discussing the symptoms – Asking about your behaviors to the family members, enquiry about the family history. Whether any of them have undergone such disorders.
  • Nocturnal sleep study(polysomnography) – Doctor recommend the subject for the overnight study in sleep lab. Sensors are placed in the body and the brain waves are recorded along with oxygen level in blood, heart rate and eye and leg movement.


Treatment isn’t necessary, but in the case of severity. You can undergo treatments like,

  • Medications – Benzodiazepines Or certain antidepressants.
  • Anticipatory awakening – Waking the person who sleepwalk about 15 minutes before they usually sleepwalks and keeping them awake for few minutes before falling asleep again.
  • Therapy or counselling – Getting suggestions and help from mental health professionals for improving sleep, stress reduction techniques and relaxations.


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