Definition

Sleepwalking is a type of sleep disorder. A person who is sleepwalking may walk around or do other complex behaviors while still asleep. It may be as simple as sitting up in bed or as complex as leaving the house and going for a drive.

Causes

It is not clear exactly what causes sleepwalking. Some people are more likely to sleepwalk. The sleepwalking may be triggered by:

    
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Illnesses with fever
  • Certain medications such as antidepressants, tranquilizers, anticonvulsants, and antihistamines
  • Medical illness such as migraine, asthma, arrhythmia, heartburn, and sleep apnea
  • Having a psychiatric disorders such as panic attack or post-traumatic stress syndrome
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your risk of sleepwalking include:

        
  • Family history of sleepwalking
  • Being a child—most common in preschool to pre-adolescence
  • Hyperthyroidism

    hyperthyroid

    Hyperthyroidism is an abnormal condition of the thyroid. It can affect many of the body's systems, including glands in the brain that can interfere with proper sleep.

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    Symptoms

    Along with walking during sleep, other symptoms can include:

        
  • Sitting up in bed and repeating certain movements such as rubbing eyes or fumbling with clothes
  • Talking in your sleep
  • Difficulty arousing during a sleepwalking episode
  • Doing inappropriate behavior during a sleepwalking episode such as urinating in closets
  • Becoming violent when a person tries to wake you
  • Not remembering the event
  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will be asked about your:

        
  • Family history
  • Fatigue
  • Medication
  • Underlying illness or stress
  • Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist. You may need to have a sleep study done in a medical clinic.

    Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

    Strategies to Prevent Injury

    Your doctor will help you prevent injury during sleepwalking by recommending that you:

        
  • Remove dangerous objects from your room
  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked
  • Hypnosis

    Some cases of sleepwalking can be treated with hypnosis.

    Awakening

    Your doctor will ask you to keep track of what time of night the sleepwalking tends to occur. You then schedule a wake up just before that time. This may help stop the sleepwalking.

    Medications

    Medications that may help reduce sleepwalking include:

        
  • Sedative-hypnotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Prevention

    To help reduce the chances of sleepwalking, take the following steps:

        
  • Increase the amount of time scheduled for sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and certain medications that may trigger sleepwalking.
  • Have a regular bedtime routine.