Sleepwalking is defined as a disorder characterized by activities like walking while still in sleep. Somnambulism, as it is known as, makes the person sit up in bed, rise and walk around. The person, although asleep appears to be awake as his eyes are wide open and can maneuver the objects around him. The sleepwalking disorder is one among the listed sleep disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
The sleepwalking disorder is generally seen during the first third of a night while one is during the deepest phase of sleep. The incident can last from a few minutes to one hour, but is not fixed. Usually it takes five to 15 minutes for the incident period. The sleepwalkers are usually unresponsive to those who are attempting to communicate with them. However, it is noted that these sleepwalkers are unaware of the incident or of their actions upon waking.
Sleepwalking disorder can be caused due to genetic components, but it may be one of the many reasons for the cause of sleepwalking. This condition in many folds is likely to occur in close relatives of sleepwalkers as compared to those who do not have a genetic disorder. Many times it may also be caused due to fever that has affected the nervous system, or due to illness, sleep deprivation, alcohol or even emotional stress. Causes like hormonal changes too have been seen to trigger sleepwalking. Other than these, even pregnancy and menstruation can be related to sleepwalking. They are mostly related to psychological and physiological stress in both men and women.
There are many symptoms by which one can diagnose the sleep disorder or Somnambulism. Let us go through some of them.
1. Repeatedly rising from bed while asleep which includes, sitting up in the bed, walking, looking around, etc. This may occur during first third of the night.
2. The sleepwalker does not respond to the person who is trying to communicate with him. His eyes are open, stares blankly and people find it difficult to awaken the sleepwalker.
3. The sleepwalkers do not recollect anything that has happened during the time they were sleepwalking. Although if one is successful in awakening him he vaguely remembers the incident as they can return to bed and fall asleep.
Sleepwalking can occur to any one, male or female and at any age. It is most common in children. Adults who sleepwalk have a history since childhood. About 1.7% events occur approximately and about 0.5% sleepwalking occurs in adult.