Do you want to protect yourself from sleep walking? We know how!

Do you want to protect yourself from sleep walking? We know how!

27 Dec 2017

Can you imagine falling asleep in your bed and waking up somewhere else without even having the slightest idea of how you got there: Scary, right? That is exactly what happens to people with sleep walking disorder. As stated above, sleep walking at night is more common in children than adults; especially sleep deprived children for that matter. It is because of this reason that medics recommend enough sleep to children whose brains are still developing. Luckily, with an increased amount of sleep, sleep walking can be reduced totally. Sleep walking, formally known as somnambulism, is the act of walking or performing other complex activities while not fully conscious or aware of it. This sleep walking disorder is more likely to appear in sleep deprived children than adults. Other causes of this disorder are use of sedatives, febrile illnesses and certain medications. The prevalence of this sleepwalking disorder in the general population is estimated to be between 1% and 15%. While isolated incidents of sleepwalking often do not signal any serious problems, persisted incidents, on the other hand, may call for medical assistance.

What are the signs of sleepwalking?

Some of the signs of sleep walking at night include; a glassy eyed stare or a blank expression whereby the pupils are generally dilated, confusion consequent to awakening, amnesia linked to the event, inappropriate behavior, violence and screaming(when sleep walking occurs in conjunction with sleep terrors) and problems functioning during the day because of disturbed sleep patterns at night. However, with adults, they might be able to recall the events with some fair share of accuracy. Once you sleep, you go through different stages, including cycles of REM and non- REM sleep. It is during this stage of non-rem sleep that sleep walking is likely to occur. This is the last stage of the sleeping cycle and it is when the body is least active, meaning why no dreams occur at that period. This can also help explain why most sleep-walkers have no memory of their nightly activities the next morning irrespective of how intense the experience was.

What are the causes of sleepwalking?

Some of the factors that may increase the risk of sleep walking or simply put, the sleep walking aids include genetics whereby sleepwalking at night appears to be connected with the genes running in the family. There is a higher chance of it occurring if you have a parent with the sleepwalking disorder. One study showed that 45% of children who sleep walked had one parent sleepwalking and 60% of the children had both parents sleepwalking. The other causes include age (the disorder is common in children), Stress or anxiety, going to bed with a full bladder, Illness or fever, irritating sleeping environment, Substance abuse and certain medication use.

How can the sleepwalking victim be helped?

Sleep walking can turn out to be dangerous when the victim engages in activities that require some complex level of concentration such as driving or even cooking. It also may be mild such as just sitting up in bed and looking around, briefly is appearing confused. This kind of sleepwalking episodes last less than ten minutes. Thus, it is of paramount importance to put up some sleepwalking defense. Victims of sleepwalking at night should have a door alarm attached to their bedroom door such that on opening the door, the loud alarm sound snaps their mind out of sleep. Also, sleep walking victims should strive to have their rooms on the first floor of a hotel, apartment or home. As for children, do not let them sleep on the top bed of a bunk bed. This is to prevent cases of sleep walking and falling, which could turn out to be fatal. As a cautionary measure, people suffering from the sleep walking disorder should not have easily accessible weapons in their rooms or in nearby rooms when they are asleep. As a matter of fact, it is recommended that the weapons be locked away. In case of a sleep walking incident, lead the victim back to bed gently. It is not necessary to wake the person up though it’s not dangerous to do so. It is not recommendable to startle or physically restrain them, unless they are in danger, as they may lash out.

What should the victim do to stop sleepwalking?

The victim should focus on getting adequate sleep by maybe going to bed early. In case of a toddler, regular sleep schedule or a short nap will do. The victim should also establish a regular relaxing routine just before bedtime. Some of these routines may include reading, mediation or soaking in warm water bath. Alcohol should also be avoided as it has been found to trigger sleep walking at night. Caffeine containing drinks should be avoided just before bedtime. If the child sleepwalks at a specific time, try waking him or her up for a short time (15- 30 minutes) just before the time that they normally start sleepwalking. This might help them alter their normal sleep cycle thus distorting the sleep walking at night.

What is the medical treatment to sleepwalking?

There has been no clinical trial to show that pharmacological or psychological intervention is effective in preventing sleepwalking episodes.  Usually, medication is not used to treat sleepwalking disorder but if the cases become too frequent, medicines such as benzodiazepines or antidepressants are administered. Therapies such as hypnotherapy or cognitive behavior therapy may also turn out to be useful.

 

Summary: Sleep walking is a normal disorder that can be overcome with time or with the appropriate healthy practices. Stereotypes on the same should be discarded as they only serve to stigmatize the victims.

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