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How to Help Someone Who Is Sleepwalking

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Sleepwalking is a condition or disorder wherein the person walks or does other activities while sleeping. This is also known as somnambulism. This occurs in adults, but most common among children age 4 and 8. Sleepwalking is not usually associated with any other dangerous conditions, but may pose unusual, dangerous behavior such as climbing out the window or walking down the stairs.



The characteristics of sleepwalking disorder

Sleepwalking does not merely involve walking while asleep. The person may manifest a complex behavior consisting of performing activities like sitting up in bed, walking around the house and some may even drive long distances without consciously knowing what they are doing. It can be dangerous for a sleepwalker to be able to get outdoors. They may walk on the streets without knowing it. This makes waking up the person who is sleepwalking important and to get treatment when the person is capable of doing more bizarre activities other than walking around the house.

Most sleep walkers may have their eyes open and other may mistake this as the person being awake. You will know that a person is sleepwalking because they will look straight through you without recognizing who you are. They will also tend to partially answer when you talk to them and they may even do some chores. Sleepwalking usually lasts at least 10 minutes and not any longer than this. When they wake up, they usually feel confused why they are not in bed and they cannot recall the activities that they did.

Sleepwalking is common among children between the age of three and seven. Children with sleep apnea are at a higher risk of experiencing sleep walking. Other conditions that may be associated with sleepwalking in children include bed wetting and sleep terrors. Sleepwalking in adults may be triggered by sleep deprivation, febrile illness, sedative agents and drugs. Some adults with sleepwalking disorder have psychiatric and psychological issues.

What are the causes of Sleepwalking?

The cause of sleepwalking in children is unknown, but some factors are attributed to be the cause of sleepwalking in adults. For example, if you have sleep deprivation, undergoing fatigue and stress, anxious, or in unfamiliar surroundings, you will likely sleepwalk. It may also occur due to alcohol consumption, sedatives or other medications. Medical conditions such as partial complex seizures and mental conditions may also cause sleepwalking. Some other underlying conditions may be associated with sleep disorders. They include sleep disordered breathing, restless leg syndrome, migraines and head injuries.

Do you need treatment for sleepwalking?

Most people do not need treatment for sleep walking. In some cases, mild tranquilizers may be prescribed to reduce sleepwalking behavior. If you have a family member who has a sleepwalking disorder, it is important that you ensure his or her safety. Here are the following things that can help:

  • Move objects that have electrical power, such as cables and cords away and keep them in a safe place
  • Arrange appliances and other furniture properly to prevent safety hazards
  • Close and lock all doors and windows at night.
  • Block doorways and stairways with a child gate
  • If possible, place alarms or bells on the doors
  • Place any sharp object away from reach
  • Look for a pattern. Write in a journal when that person is usually sleepwalking. If the timing is fairly consistent, wake 15 minutes before the expected sleep walking, orient the person and keep him awake for five minutes and have him sleep again.

Safety is important

Safety is a priority for individuals who have a sleepwalking disorder. First aid management of particular injuries may be given, especially when the child shows bruises when sleepwalking. Apply an ice or cold compress on the area where swelling or bruises appear. Children who fall from stairs should be checked for wounds or cuts and broken bone. Assess whether the child shows disorientation and check for any bumps on the head and apply an ice immediately.

If you have sleepwalking disorder, the following might help you:

  • Get more sleep as fatigue is known to contribute to sleepwalking disorder
  • Establish regular, routine that relaxes you during bedtime. You may read books, do puzzles or soaking in a warm bath
  • Manage your stress appropriately.

Treatment available for sleepwalking

Specific treatments for sleepwalking are not available. Doctors consider sleepwalking as a symptom of an underlying medical or psychological condition and treatment is directed in managing them. Removing the common causes or triggers for sleepwalking seems to be the viable treatment option. Learning how to get a relaxed state of mind and regular activities before bedtime can help improve a person's sleep. Persons with obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome need to have this condition treated because they can result in disturbed sleep and may cause sleepwalking disorder. In certain instances, taking medications is not recommended, but occasionally anti-depressants are prescribed to promote better sleep and reduce the instances of sleepwalking.

Hypnotherapy is a common intervention given to a person with a sleepwalking disorder. Relaxation exercises such as yoga, hypnosis, and other relaxation techniques can help promote sleep and reduce stress and anxiety. Getting enough sleep usually helps overcome the condition. Sleeping in an environment that is ideal for an undisturbed sleep is highly recommended. Modify your room to have a more relaxed environment with dim lights and without any disturbing sound. Getting a relaxed sleep usually helps control sleepwalking episodes, but when it continues to persist, you should see a doctor for better evaluation and diagnosis.


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