Sleepwalking: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Updated on November 25th, 2020

Sleepwalking is more common in younger children, and the frequency is lower in teens. Although adults rarely sleepwalk, this disorder is not associated with chronic complications.

Factors related to sleepwalking are genetic, environmental, and physiological. Sleepwalking is diagnosed with a history or exam. Radiological or lab studies are not required.

Some conditions are similar to sleepwalking, so doctors may need to eliminate these. Sleepwalking is characterized by complex actions like walking at the time of sleep. They have a glassy gaze in their eyes, though the person’s eyes are open. Sleepwalking is common among early childhood and teen patients.


Sleepwalking was the subject of medical literature much before the advent of Hippocrates. Sleepwalking is part of a group of sleep behaviors common in children, teens, and adults. For comprehending parasomnias, it is essential to understand the physiology of sleep.

Sleep occurs in two broad categories, defined by EEG and brainwave tests. The principal groups are REM and Non-REM sleep cycles. Non-REM rest comprises four stages: stage 1 (generalized muscle reaction and effort to keep eyes open), stage 2 (light sleep), stage 3 and 4 (deep sleep).

REM sleep is associated with dreaming. The entire sleep cycle from stage 1 to REM lasts 90-120 minutes and repeats 4-5 times during the whole sleep experience. Each REM and non-REM sleep lasts between 5 and 15 minutes.

Sleep patterns in children aged 2.5 to 6 years discovered close to 88% were parasomniacs, while 15% were sleepwalkers. Symptoms associated with sleepwalking range across sleep enuresis or bedwetting, sleep terrors, bruxism(1), and rhythmic movements like headbanging.

Sleepwalking Causes

Sleepwalking is most prevalent during Stage 3 or 4, in a deep sleep first or second cycles. The sleepwalking activity includes sitting up and seeming awake while asleep. Getting up, walking around, or complex activities like dressing may also be part of the experience, too.

Some individuals even drive a car while sleeping. The episode can be as short as a couple of minutes or 30 minutes or longer. While walking, the sleepwalker has no idea regarding behaviors.

Sleepwalking is a disorder that causes one to get up and walk when asleep. The doctor refers to it as somnambulism. It usually takes place when one awakens from a deeper stage of sleep to a lighter stage of awakening.

While sleepwalking, individuals cannot respond, typically do not speak sense, and don’t remember the episode. Sleepwalking occurs in kids between 4 and 8 years of age. But adults can carry this out, too. If sleepwalking is a habit, lock doors, safeguard the home and prevent sharp objects from intruding.

[ Read: Benefits of Sleeping On The Floor ]


Sleepwalkers creep around their room. They may even run or try to escape. Their eyes may be open and display a glassy stare. Sleepwalkers are slow to respond to questions and not respond at all.

There’s no memory of sleepwalking. A lot of factors can be implicated in sleepwalking. It runs in families. Identical twins are likelier to sleepwalk. If one has a relative, a direct one at that who sleepwalks, there is ten times greater likelihood of you sleepwalking.

Sleepwalking can occur when individuals are sleep deprived, on a chaotic sleep schedule, or stressed out. Sleepwalkers can also be drunk, take drugs like sedative-hypnotics, neuroleptics, stimulants, and antihistamines.

Medical factors linked to sleepwalking include cardiac arrhythmia, fever, heartburn, nighttime seizures and asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and psychiatric disorders like PTSD, panic attacks, or dissociative states like MPD.

Sleepwalking Diagnosis

Sleepwalking is simple to diagnose. Doctors ask about symptoms and medical history. They may even carry out tests to find out whether a medical condition makes you sleepwalk. Tests for sleepwalking include a physical exam, a sleep study (polysomnography), EEG (although this rare).

[ Read: Benefits of Sleeping Naked ]

Sleepwalking Treatment and Home Remedies

1. Home Remedies

Changing some lifestyle habits can stop sleepwalking(2). Adhere to the sleep schedule and have a relaxing bedtime routine. Stop alcohol intake. If there is medication, ask your doctor if it could play a role.

Treatments may also include hypnosis or medicines like sedatives and antidepressants. Home remedies can range from getting adequate sleep to meditation or relaxation exercises. Avoid auditory or visual stimuli before bedtime.

Additionally, follow a safe sleeping environment, free of sharp or harmful objects. Sleepwalkers should stay in a ground floor bedroom and avoid bunk beds. They should avoid obstacles in the room, lock doors and windows, and cover glass windows with heavy drapes.

2. Medical Treatment and Management

Consult a Doctor

Sleepwalking is associated with underlying medical conditions like GERD, obstructive sleep apnea, periodic leg movements, and seizures. To prevent sleepwalking, treat the underlying medical condition.

Medications should be used for the treatment of sleepwalking disorder when the possibility of injury is real, continued behaviors are causing considerable family disruption or excessive daytime sleepiness, and other measures are inadequate.

Episodes need to be treated by a qualified sleep doctor and specialist. There are sleep labs that detect the condition and suggest the course of treatment and management, too.

Formally called somnambulism, this is a behavior disorder that originates during sleep and leads to walking or performing complex behaviors while asleep. So management needs to be geared to this.

Somnambulism: Concluding Thoughts

Sleepwalking is more common in kids and sleeps deprived persons. As the sleepwalker is remaining in a deep sleep, throughout the episode, it may be difficult not to remember the sleepwalking incident. Sleepwalking involves more than walking during sleep. It can be dangerous not to wake sleepwalkers.

Additionally, sleepwalking injuries are common. The prevalence of sleepwalking in adulthood is common. It is usually not linked to mental or physiological problems. Common triggers for sleepwalking include sedative agents, sleep deprivation, febrile illness, and specific medicines.

Sleepwalking is likelier for children between 3 and 7 years of age. Night terrors, sleep apnea, and bedwetting commonly accompany sleepwalking. Medical assistance and treatment are essential to avert the intensification of symptoms and the worsening of this disorder.

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