Sleepwalking may be more rampant than thought in the United States. Close to one in three people may sleepwalk during their lives, according to a US study that said severe depression and other sleep disorders may increase the possibility.
A survey of 16,000 adults in 15 states found that 29 per cent said they had sleepwalked at least once in their lives, close to 3 per cent did it between once a year and once a month, and 1 per cent sleepwalked at least twice per month.
"We did not know the prevalence of sleepwalking was- as sleepwalking was- as a disorder- in the general population, and that was a big problem," said Professor Maurice Ohayon of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Stanford University Sleep Epidemiology Research Centre in California.
He led the study which appeared in the journal Neurology.
Past research on sleepwalking was based mostly on studies conducted in a lab, but Prof Ohayon said he wanted to know what was actually happening in peoples' homes.
The survey asked participants about their lifestyle and sleeping habits, overall health and whether they had any sleep, mental or other types of disorders, including sleepwalking.
It found that certain people were more likely to sleepwalk, including those with sleep apnoea or insomnia, heavy drinkers and those who took sleeping pills.
Participants on antidepressants, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, seemed to be at higher risk of sleepwalking but the researchers said this could be explained by the conditions those drugs treat.
Both major depression and obsessive compulsive disorder were also linked to sleepwalking.
Prof Ohayon's team reported that close to one third of sleepwalkers said they had a family history of sleepwalking.
"I'm not too surprised by the results," said Dr Timothy Young, a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist with the Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Dr Young, who was not involved in the research, said sleepwalking is thought to be common during childhood, but tapers off as people get older.
Past studies have shown that 30 per cent of children may be sleepwalkers, the researchers wrote.
According to Dr Young, sleepwalking covers a spectrum of actions from sleep talking to getting out of bed.
He said it becomes a problem when people start walking down stairs or outside.
The study was partially funded by the US National Institutes of Health, the Arrillaga Foundation, the Bing Foundation and Neurocrines Biosciences, which is a biopharmaceutical company.
Dangers of sleep walking
- Patients may be agitated, violent and aggressive, and injury can occur during episodes.
How others can help the patients
- Guide sleepwalker back to bed
- Keep doors and windows locked
- Don't intervene during episode as this may prolong it
- Install alarm system to alert caregivers
What a sleepwalker can do to improve
- Get enough sleep
- Establish good sleeping habits
- Take daytime naps if needed
- Limit fluid intake at night
- Behavioural training used in milder cases without self-injury. In severe cases, drugs which sedate patient and relax muscles can be used, as advised by doctor.
If you have a child who sleepwalks, not to worry, the chances will reduce over time. However, if discovered early, preventive measures need to be taken to reduce hurt on the child due to negligence.
Read my other posts to discover how to improve your sleep!
I wish you a good night's sleep,