How to Treat Sleepwalking?

  • October 28, 2023
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How to Treat Sleepwalking?

What is Sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking, scientifically termed somnambulism and classified as a parasomnia, involves intricate behaviors performed during non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This phenomenon predominantly occurs in the early part of the night, generally within the first hour or two after the individual has initially fallen asleep. 

The range of sleepwalking activities spans from simple actions such as sitting up in bed to more elaborate behaviors like strolling around the house or even venturing outside. This behavior is not confined to adults alone; it is also prevalent in children, where they rise from bed and participate in various nighttime activities, with no memory of these occurrences upon waking.

Why Does Sleepwalking Occur?

The exact cause of sleepwalking is not fully understood, but it is believed to be linked to a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. One of the key triggers is insufficient or poor-quality sleep. Sleepwalking is more common in children, but it can persist into adulthood.

Stress and anxiety are also potential contributors, as they can disrupt the normal sleep patterns and increase the likelihood of sleepwalking episodes. Other factors include certain medications, sleep deprivation, and conditions such as fever or illness.

How Does Sleepwalking Manifest?

Sleepwalking episodes can vary in duration and intensity. They often occur during the slow-wave sleep phase, which is a deep sleep stage. Individuals who sleepwalk may exhibit a range of behaviors, from simple and repetitive actions to more purposeful movements. These actions can include sitting up in bed, walking around the room, or even leaving the house. Sleepwalkers usually have a blank expression and may be difficult to wake up during an episode.

It's essential to note that sleepwalkers may not remember the episode upon waking. The lack of awareness during sleepwalking can make it challenging for individuals to seek help or take preventive measures.

Treatment Solutions for Sleepwalking

Improve Sleep Hygiene:

  1. Establish a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
  2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal the body that it's time to wind down.
  3. Ensure a comfortable sleep environment with a cool, dark, and quiet room.

Address Stress and Anxiety:

  1. Practice stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga.
  2. Consider counseling or therapy to manage underlying emotional stressors.

Medication Management:

  1. In some cases, doctors may prescribe medications to address underlying sleep disorders or alleviate anxiety.
  2. It's important to use medications under the supervision of a healthcare professional, as they may have side effects and interactions.

Safety Measures:

  1. To prevent injury during sleepwalking episodes, remove obstacles or hazards from the sleepwalker's path.
  2. Install gates at staircases and secure windows and doors to prevent accidental wandering.

Sleep Study (Polysomnography):

  1. A sleep study may be recommended to monitor and analyze sleep patterns.
  2. This can help identify any underlying sleep disorders contributing to sleepwalking.

Benefits of Treating Sleepwalking

  1. Enhanced Safety: Implementing safety measures and addressing the underlying causes of sleepwalking can reduce the risk of injury during episodes.
  2. Improved Quality of Life: Effective treatment can lead to better sleep quality, improving overall well-being and daytime functioning.
  3. Better Mental Health: Addressing stress and anxiety not only helps in managing sleepwalking but also contributes to improved mental health.
  4. Enhanced Productivity: Adequate, uninterrupted sleep is crucial for cognitive function and daytime productivity. Treating sleepwalking can positively impact daily activities.
  5. Prevention of Future Episodes: Identifying and addressing the root causes of sleepwalking can help prevent future episodes, providing long-term relief.

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