What is sleepwalking? Have you ever sleepwalked? It is the act of an individual who awakes suddenly from deep sleep, causing the sleepwalking episode. The episodes can last anywhere from a few minutes up to one hour, with five to 15 minutes being average. Sleepwalkers appear to be awake but are typically unresponsive to individuals who attempt to communicate with them. Persons who sleepwalk simply have no memory or awareness of their actions or movement upon waking. These activities can be as benign as sitting up in bed, walking to the bathroom, and cleaning, or as hazardous as cooking, driving, extremely violent gestures, or even commit crime. For this, Sleepwalking in some cases is surely quite dangerous, which is why identifying the causes is important. Causes of sleepwalking can be broken into genetic factors, environmental causes, and health condition.
Let’s begin with the first cause of sleepwalking which is about the genetic factor. Sleepwalking definitely runs in families. It is estimated that your chances of being a sleepwalker are increased by about ten times, if you have a close relative who walks around in their sleep. Scientists have even discovered a genetic marker that is fairly often present in the DNA of sleepwalkers. So it is entirely possible that "your grandmother makes you do it!”. It is usually passed down from one generation to another. Also, according to the research, the percentage of childhood sleepwalking increases to 45% if one parent was affected, and it is up to 60% if both parents were affected. And usually Males are seen to be more likely to sleepwalk than females.
The second cause is about environmental factor which includes sleep deprivation, poor sleeping conditions, stress, alcohol intoxication, and drug abuse. Sometimes the presence of loud noises and strong smells can interfere with sleep as well. Alcohol or Drug Use/Abuse which lead to Sleepwalking is usually happened among people who drink heavily before bedtime or use certain recreational drugs. Alcohol or drugs can trigger some rather strange sleepwalking activities. It is exponentially more dangerous when you are under the influence. Stress is also one of the environment factors, and we consider it to be a major cause of sleepwalking as well. When you get stress, sleep deprivation will occur, and once it occur, there is no doubt that sleepwalking may happened. Even though that it's not possible to eliminate all the causes of stress in your life, but it is possible to learn new coping mechanisms, to deal with stress in a less negative manner.
Last but not least is health conditions which can also contribute to sleepwalking. There are a number of medical problems that are often associated with sleepwalking. Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the most common issues. Apnea is a temporary suspension or absence of breathing. Because
the apnea patient has numerous interruptions during the sleep cycle, due to irregular breathing, there are times they are wake up enough to sleepwalk, even though the event didn't actually wake them up. Sleepwalking may also be started by fever, which directly affects the nervous system, general illness, and emotional stress, especially in children. They are more likely to suffer from sleepwalking than others because their conditions are not always conducive to a good night sleep and rest when they have a fever. Besides, certain classes of medication have also been shown to cause sleepwalking episodes in some individuals. These include: Anti-anxiety or sleep-inducing drugs, antiseizure medications, stimulants, antihistamines, and anti-arrhythmic heart drugs.
So now let’s move to the prevention of sleepwalking. When I get to this point, the question would be asked : What about treatment? Is there a way to stop sleepwalking? The answer is no. There is no particular treatment for sleepwalking but some methods have been helpful in reducing the amount of sleepwalking and of course some safety measures will be needed. The prevention for sleepwalking comes in many forms and depends on what is determined to be the primary cause. One action you can take on your own is to get more rest and sleep. Make sure that you could sleep at least 7 to 9 hours a day for adult. Practicing good sleep hygiene can significantly decrease the risk because it avoids sleep deprivation. Also, It's a good idea to keep bedrooms cool and adequately stocked with blankets, sheets, and pillows, and to reserve the bedroom for sleeping, rather than using it as a multi-purpose room. This can reduce other sleep-related disorders as well as general anxiety and exhaustion levels.
Another thing you can do is to clear harmful obstacles from the sleep walkers path in order to avoid any injuries. For most sleepwalkers, many experts advise putting away dangerous items and locking doors and windows before sleep to reduce risks of harmful activity. You should remove stove knobs, putting sharp objects like scissors and knives away as well. Sometimes, you might let a sleepwalker only sleeps downstairs and that he cannot open windows, doors or have access to the keys of a vehicle. Making sure there is nothing for the sleepwalker to bump into or fall over as he sleepwalks is also important.
Third, you need to consult a doctor. If you think that you have sleepwalked or about to sleepwalk without any certain reason, you might go to see a doctor because it could be from the medicine that you take. You could talk to your doctor about changing to a different drug or prescription immediately. This is a very serious problem because your life could depend on it!
Forth, Learning how to deal with stress and limiting the alcohol consumption are also the ways cope with sleepwalking. If stress appears, you need to be able to stop it. You may meditate or doing some relaxation exercises, or you might indulge yourself to do your pleasure activity such as listening to your favourite songs, eating your favourite food, watching your favourite movies, so on and so forth. Many sleepwalkers find that the episodes are much reduced or even eliminated, after learning stress management. Besides, you have to make sure that you do not drink too much alcohol since it could lead you to sleepwalk at night as well when you lose control. It might sound wired when I said so because some of you might experience drinking, but it possibly happened. Therefore, onece you drink, you need limit the amount of alcohol.
All in all, sleepwalking is a common issue that people should take it into a consideration because it could happen to any people at any age and time. And I hope people know how to deal with it when it occurs. Thanks you. If you have any question or you are not cleared in some parts of my presentation, please freely ask.