Sleepwalking is regarded as one of the most common Para-insomnias. It is a frequently encountered problem and even has medico-legal importance.
Sleepwalking is basically a sleeping disorder in which the person is physically mobile while still deep asleep. Sleepwalking occurs in deeper stage of sleep. As you might know, sleep is divided into REM sleep and NREM. REM sleep refers to Rapid Eye Movement sleep, and NREM refers to Non Rapid Eye movement sleep. REM sleep occurs in initial stages of sleep and characterized by movement of eyeballs whereas eyeballs don’t move in deeper stages of sleep, i.e. NREM.
Sleep walking normally occurs in deep stage of sleep, which is non rapid eye movement sleep. During this phase, individual don’t’ realize he is mobile and if awake from sleep, he might not have any recollection of what he was doing. Individuals who do sleep walking are seen as wandering souls and if they are force to be awakening, they will look very confused and lost.
Sleepwalking varies in severity and range of motion. Some people just restrict to room, whereas others are capable of walking to several feet with no issue or awakening and are more prone to suffer any type of trauma. However the most severe form is when people are capable of completing complicated task while sleeping like moving objects and drinking water. Sleep walking of this severity has medico-legal importance as people can commit murders during deep stages of sleep and have no recollection in the morning.
Sleepwalking is more common in children of pediatric age; however there is no age limitation and adults can have the symptoms. Each episode of sleepwalking may be as long as an hour or as short as less than a minute.
Risk factors that aggravate sleepwalking episode in an individual can be:
• Sleep deprivation
• Irregular sleeping schedules
• Disease state especially high grade fever or infections
• Stress or tension
Sign and symptoms of sleepwalking:
Prominent sign and symptoms of sleepwalking are:
• Walking during sleep with eyes open.
• No response if called upon.
• Walking clumsily across the room.
• No recollection of ant events, the next morning.
SLEEPING TIPS FOR SLEEP WALKER SAFETY:
Sleepwalking is undoubtedly a dangerous disorder as if you have stairs at home; your child or other family member may slip off from stairs and get injured while sleepwalking. It is therefore necessary to have some sleeping tips ready in order to avoid any accident.
These sleeping tips are:
• Meditation has been long known to cure different ailments and problems. Meditation and relaxation exercise may help a great deal to battle with this problem.
• For sleepwalker’s safety, try to maintain a safe and sound sleeping environment. Avoid putting unnecessary furniture in the room and strictly remove any sharp or potentially dangerous objects from the room.
• If possible, give a ground floor room to the sleepwalker; this will prevent him potentially from falling off the stairs.
• Keep all the windows and doors locked. Be sure to lock windows only if there is sufficient ventilation passage in the room and if window is the sole source of ventilation, then you can get your windows grilled or netted.
• If possible, install an alarm system at the door of sleepwalker; so you will know each time, the person is about to leave the room. You can also install motions sensors or room monitors in the room.
TREATMENT OF SLEEPWALKING:
In order to treat sleep walking, first it is important to know the cause of sleepwalking. There are a variety of medical conditions that may lead to sleep walking. These are:
• Gastro-esophageal reflux disease, which in general terms is known as Dyspepsia or acid reflux.
• Restless leg syndrome
• Seizure disorder
It is important to treat the underlying medical condition first; this may automatically treat sleepwalking without needing any additional therapy. However benzodiazepines have proved to be very potent in treating the disorder medically. Other options are hypnotism and mental imagery. For hypnotism, it is necessary that the hypnotist have his expertise in this subject. Anticipatory awakening can also be employed for those individuals that have a fixed time of sleepwalking. Anticipatory awakening involves waking up these individuals 10 to 15 minutes prior to an expected sleepwalking episode and allowed to go to sleep again only after the respected time has passed.