Sleepwalking is a type of parasomnia that is characterized by complex actions made by a person while they are still in the deep stages of sleep. When a person is sleepwalking, they may do things like walk around or perform complex tasks – like eating, cooking, or talking – while being completely unaware of their actions.
While this behavior can be alarming, it's usually harmless behavior that goes away on its own – Other times, there may be an underlying cause. In this article, we will discuss the main causes, symptoms, and common treatment options so you or your loved one can experience higher-quality deep sleep with fewer disruptions from sleepwalking.
Sleepwalking, or parasomnia, is a condition where a person performs waking actions – like walking around, eating, or talking – while they are still fast asleep. It is believed that certain triggers such as sleep deprivation, family history, medications, or underlying medical conditions may lead to more frequent sleepwalking events.
This condition is more common in children than in adults and may be hereditary. However, most children who sleepwalk tend to experience fewer episodes as they enter their teenage years – So, long-term treatment usually isn’t necessary in many cases. However, when adults experience parasomnias like sleepwalking, there may be an underlying sleep disorder or medical condition present. Parasomnia treatment may be necessary if episodes become more frequent, harmful, or intense.
Despite the somewhat misleading title, people who suffer from “sleepwalking” commonly carry out other activities besides just walking in their sleep. Some sleepwalking episodes can last anywhere from just a few seconds to several minutes or longer, depending on the severity of the condition.
People with this type of parasomnia typically exhibit behaviors like sitting up in bed, walking, and speaking loudly or incoherently. Others find sleepwalkers doing routine housework, getting dressed, or brushing their teeth. In more extreme cases, people who sleepwalk may enact more dangerous activities like driving or trying to cook while asleep.
Usually, a sleepwalking person will wake up feeling very confused or will return to their bed before waking up. In most cases, people with this parasomnia have no recollection of the events that happened when they were sleeping which can become a source of anxiety that may lead to other sleep problems.
Sleepwalking is a form of parasomnia – a category of sleep disorders characterized by abnormal movements or behaviors while falling asleep – but what causes sleepwalking?
It is believed that sleepwalking happens when a person is in the non-REM (NREM) stages of sleep, also known as “deep sleep”. During this deep sleep phase, the brain still stimulates physical movement and activity while the person is still mostly asleep.
Many factors can influence the occurrence of sleeping disorders like sleepwalking. Some commonly reported triggers for sleepwalking episodes include:
- Underlying medical issues
- Other sleep disorders
- Genetics and family history
- Sleep deprivation
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- (RLS) Restless Leg Syndrome
- Stress and anxiety
People who experience sleepwalking usually don’t remember their experiences. So, whether a sleepwalker lives alone or with others, waking up during or after an episode can be stressful, to say the least. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to isolate the specific cause since there are many factors that can contribute to sleepwalking,
The good news is that most of the time, sleepwalking requires no active treatment since episodes are rare and usually harmless. However, if disruptive and dangerous sleepwalking events happen often enough to cause concern, it may be necessary to take further steps.
The good news is correcting sleep disorders like sleepwalking might be as simple as isolating and treating an underlying cause. For example, if sleepwalking is a symptom of another problem like RLS, stress, or obstructive sleep apnea, treating these issues may lead to reduced sleepwalking events.
Additionally, using clinically tested sleeping tools like sleep glasses can help create an evening environment that promotes the natural release of melatonin in the brain. In many cases, wearing sleep glasses and avoiding blue light at night can reset the circadian rhythm to greatly improve sleep quality.
As we’ve discussed, sleepwalking usually happens during interruptions in the stages of deep sleep, or (NREM) non-REM sleep. Interruptions during this crucial stage of sleep can cause a wide range of problems including imbalances in the circadian rhythm.
The circadian rhythm, sometimes called the “body clock”, is the natural release of hormones responsible for helping you feel sleepy at night and alert in the morning. This natural function is stimulated by the lightwaves of the rising and setting sun. The stimulating blue light from the morning sun sends signals to our brains that it's time to wake up, but too much blue light during the day – like from TV, phone, and computer screens – can knock the circadian rhythm out of balance.
When your circadian rhythm is off, you may find it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up feeling rested and refreshed in the morning. Balancing your circadian rhythm with tools like sleep glasses can help “reset” your natural sleep schedule and may help those struggling with sleepwalking.
If you’re concerned about sleepwalking, it's important to discuss symptoms and treatment options with your doctor. Together you can explore any underlying causes and discuss natural treatment options that might help you balance your circadian rhythm, like supplemental melatonin or sleep glasses.
Sleep glasses work by blocking blue-light waves in the hours leading up to bed to help stimulate sleepiness at the appropriate time. By filtering blue light waves, sleep glasses can help maintain a healthy circadian rhythm by allowing the brain to release its natural melatonin at night – which may help reduce sleepwalking events.
Sleep glasses, like those offered from Ocusleep™ are a naturally-effective, doctor-created, and clinically-tested method for balancing the circadian rhythm, without the need for melatonin supplements. Order Ocusleep™ sleep glasses today to achieve a more balanced sleep cycle in as soon as 2 weeks.