Is Sleepwalking a Health Issue?

Have you or anyone you’ve known had problems with sleepwalking? As is many things, there is a wide spectrum on how this may affect you.  Minimal sleepwalkers may never really know that something weird is happening at night. But some, may awake, and find themselves in different rooms, outside the house, and even in different neighborhoods.

Recently a review of sleepwalkers illustrated that just less than 4 % of the population has had at least a single episode of sleepwalking within the last twelve months.  If examined and analyzed – that would point to almost 8.5 million U.S. adults.

A surprising aspect is that 10 years ago, a European study showed that the average population that did suffer from sleepwalking was 2%.    The small number 2% to 4% means over 4 million people.  It may seem like a small number but really – it is quite medically significant.

Things that happen while sleep walking

There have been reports of serious medical concerns related to sleep walking. These include sleep driving, sleep eating, sleep shopping, sleep running, and sleep missing.  Some believe that some of the more sensational experiences were affected by prescription medications including sleep aids [over-the-counter], mental health and sedating medications.

Another cause is genetics. A large number of those who experience sleepwalking more than once a month often have other family members who do the same thing.  It could be parent, grandparents, siblings, uncles or aunts.

Complex vs Simple Behaviors

The behaviors performed during sleepwalking are typically classified as simple. This means, brushing teeth, going for a walk, cooking, driving, or cleaning.  More complex behaviors are always questioned to the truthfulness of their reports.

A women claimed that she was having sexual relations with strangers in her sleep.  Others have indicated that they committed crimes including homicide while sleepwalking.

It has been studied that the majority of sleepwalkers have their episode during the first few hours of sleeping and this correlates to around  11pm to 1am. It is believed that this occurs during the slow wave of NREM sleep stage.  And multiple sleepwalking episodes usually don’t happen within a single night of sleep.

It is important to recognize if you are someone who sleep walks. The problem is if you leave knives, open doors, or keys easily accessible. This makes your episodes even more dangerous. It is advised to hide or put away sharp or dangerous objects.

Waking a Sleepwalker

The myth is around that if you awaken a sleepwalker, something serious can happen. This does not appear to be the truth. It is advised that you try to help a sleepwalker back into bed but if they are awaken, they will most likely be confused more than anything else.

Anger has occurred in a few cases when a sleepwalker has awoken in an unfamiliar place. They need to be calmed and helped to understand what is happening. We’ve all awoken in our own beds and have been confused on where we were. We may become very anxious or scared because of what we don’t know or even a dream we were having. It is worse if you are actually somewhere different than where you fell asleep.

Overall the issues of serious medial concerns because of sleep walking are few. But, you can’t escape the fact that things can happen while you are asleep. Driving while asleep can’t be a good thing.  Tell us of your experiences sleep walking.

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