Sleepwalking is a disorder that is experienced by many people around the world. Officially known as Somnambulism, this disorder often has many misconceptions.
There are stories around of people who died upon being awakened while sleepwalking, and many questions are raised by those who experience it personally. The disorder itself is characterized by someone walking or engaging in various activities while they are asleep.
Understanding more about the disorder is essential for those who have it and their loved ones. Here are a few facts about sleepwalking that can help to put some myths to rest:
Waking a Sleep Walker Is Not Dangerous
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Contrary to many opinions, it is not at all dangerous to awaken a sleepwalker. They should be woken up, especially if they are engaging in any activities that could be dangerous.
Once they are awake, they may seem a bit disoriented for a few moments, but they are under absolutely no danger simply from you waking them up.
Sleepwalkers Can Be Injured
Many believe that someone sleepwalking cannot be harmed. Injuries are very common in those who walk during sleep, as they can trip and fall.
Sleep Walkers May Engage in Many Activities
Sleepwalking is not simply about walking about the house. Sleepwalkers have been known to engage in several different activities. Some have moved furniture about during sleep, dressed and undressed and even driven vehicles while they were snoozing.
Children Can Sleepwalk, Too
Adults are not the only people affected by this disorder. Normally, when the disorder begins at a young age, it disappears during the teenage years. Most children who begin sleepwalking start around the age of nine; however, they can continue into adulthood. Boys are also more prone to experience sleepwalking episodes than girls.
The Sleepwalking Disorder Could be Genetic
Many studies have been done in children and adults who experience sleepwalking episodes. While it commonly occurs in children ages six through twelve, it can actually happen in younger children as well as older adults- and it has been seen in many elderly people as well.
Studies have shown that this disorder does appear to be genetic and can be seen in many family members.
Sleepwalking Episodes Can Last for Long Periods
While most sleepwalking episodes will last only a few seconds, there have been some that have gone on for nearly an hour. Because of this, sleep patterns are disrupted, which can lead to major health issues.
Understanding sleepwalking and what causes it is essential for anyone who experiences this disorder. While the major cause of sleepwalking in children is normally fatigue or anxiety, it can be caused by several medical conditions in adults. Those who have experienced these episodes should contact their doctor to determine the underlying cause of the disorder.
Types of Sleep Disorders
The ICSD divides sleeping problems into four general classifications: dyssomnias, parasomnias, medical/psychiatric problems, and proposed disorders. A dyssomnia is a disruption of the body’s natural resting and waking patterns. Dyssomnias may be extrinsic (having an external cause), or intrinsic (having their cause in the body). A dyssomnia may also be caused by problems with a person’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock.
Parasomnias are conditions that interrupt sleep. They’re caused by difficulties with arousal or sleep stage transitions. Sleepwalking, nightmares, bedwetting and restless legs syndrome are all common parasomnias.
Medical or psychological conditions, such as alcoholism, ulcers, asthma and anxiety disorders, can cause rest-related disturbances. In such cases, treating the underlying problem should improve a person’s rest pattern.
Finally, proposed disorders are rest-related disturbances that are under investigation. They may or may not prove to be actual disorders.
How to Cope with Multiple Sleep Problems
There are thought to be more than 100 different sleep problems, and it’s not unusual for one patient to have several sleep disorders. Patients suffering from fibromyalgia deal with symptoms of many different ailments and may not realize that some or all of them might be related to sleep problems.
While no one knows for sure whether any or all disorders from fibromyalgia are sleep-related, there is a possible connection between the condition and sleep problems. For instance, a patient who has constant pain in his bones, joints, and muscles, is always tired and doesn’t feel rested, may be suffering from a sleep problem that is not allowing the body to repair or rejuvenate. This, in turn, can explain the aches and pains that don’t go away. Once the sleep problems are addressed, the patient might feel more rested, but still, have other issues.
It may not be until much later that other symptoms or diseases are ruled out and sleep problems become a focus again. Another doctor might request more tests; depending on the preliminary results, additional diagnostic workups may be undertaken. Only then can a medical professional determine what, if anything, else can be done to assist the patient with the difficulties being experienced.
Nightmares and Sleepwalking
People suffering from nightmares or night terrors may also suffer from sleepwalking or bedwetting. Drugs and various therapies are available to assist those suffering to lead relatively normal lives.
Snoring is another commonly recognized symptom of sleep problems – the louder someone snores, the more a person is assumed to have sleep apnea. During sleep apnea, a person either breathes with difficulty or doesn’t breath at all during several points in a sleep cycle. For instance, someone can be breathing, but only taking in 50 percent oxygen, which is causing them to wake up tired and dazed, because not enough oxygen has been flowing through their circulatory system during the night.
Some people don’t have inner bodily clocks that regulate when they should wake and when they should sleep. These people don’t have insomnia – that would suggest being tired but not being able to fall asleep. People who don’t have regulated sleep cycles can continue for days or extended hours without the need or urge to sleep. While this might be considered an advantage during school or early adulthood, it becomes a problem later in life