Sleepwalking | Causes Of Sleepwalking | Sleepwalking Symptoms

Sleepwalking Causes And Symptoms

Causes Of Sleepwalking - Environmental factors

Sleep deprivation, disorganized sleep schedules, fever, stress, magnesium deficiency, and alcohol intoxication can trigger sleepwalking.

Drugs, neuroleptics (drugs used to treat psychosis), minor tranquilizers (drugs that produce a calming effect), stimulants (drugs that increase activity), and antihistamines (drugs used to treat symptoms of allergy) can cause sleepwalking.

Physiological factors

  • Conditions, such as pregnancy and menstruation, are known to increase the frequency of sleepwalking.
  • The length and depth of slow wave sleep, which is greater in young children, may be a factor in the increased frequency of sleepwalking in children.

Other factors:

  • Fever in adults or children
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (food or liquid regurgitating from the stomach into the food pipe)
  • Nighttime asthma
  • Nighttime seizures (convulsions)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (condition in which breathing stops temporarily while sleeping)
  • Psychiatric disorders,
  • Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)
  • Light or noise

Sleepwalking Symptoms:

  • Ambulation (walking or moving) that occurs during sleep. The onset typically occurs in pre-pubertal children.
  • Episodes range from quiet walking about the room to agitated running or attempts to "escape."
  • The eyes are open with a glassy, staring appearance as the person quietly roams the house.
  • Difficulty in arousing the patient during an event
  • Amnesia following the event
  • Events typically occur in the first third of the sleep episode
  • Polysomnographic monitoring demonstrates the onset of an event during stage 3 or 4 sleep
  • Other medical and psychiatric disorders can be present but do not account for the symptom
  • The ambulation is not due to other sleep disorders such as REM sleep behavior disorder or sleep terrors.
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue and 
  • Stress

When To Seek Medical Care

Most patients experience sleep walking infrequently (less than once per month) and those episodes do not result in harm to the patients. Others experience episodes more frequently.

For children and adults, sleepwalking is usually a sign of lack of sleep, severe emotional problems, stress, or fever. As these conditions resolve, sleepwalking incidences disappear.

In most cases, no treatment is necessary because sleepwalking rarely indicates any serious underlying medical or psychiatric problem. In most children, sleepwalking disappears at puberty.

However, it can occasionally persist into adulthood or may even begin in adulthood. Consult a sleep specialist if the person is having frequent episodes, injuring himself or herself, or showing violent behavior.


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