Sleepwalking: the king of sleep disorders

Today we are talking about somnambulist. Who hasn’t heard of people walking, talking or feeling lonely when they sleep? Stories and anecdotes are often told about one or more members of the family circle who have come to walk alone in the house wanting to open doors or windows, or who while sleeping have spoken or “called” acquaintances.

Also, after these episodes, when he is told the next morning what happened to the person featured in the event, he rarely remembers anything. The truth is that the somnambulist, Also known as noctambulism, It is so strange that he has been enveloped in a haze of rumors and myths (Like the belief that it is advisable not to lift the sleepwalker). This short article aims to clarify the doubts about this phenomenon.

Sleepwalking: definition and symptoms

For Navarro and Tortajada (1994), “sleepwalking is a generally mild sleep disorder characterized by brief episodes of strolling that appear during slow sleep (phase four), almost in the first third of the night”. These episodes, which typically last 40 seconds to 40 minutes, can include almost any type of behavior or express inconsistent or very clear words or phrases.

As for the symptoms, Navarro and Tortajada they give us the following characteristics about the behavior of the sleepwalking person:

  • They can lift the sheets, welcome them and go back to sleep and sleep
  • Get up and walk in or out of the room
  • Open your eyes while sleeping
  • Awkward motor activity
  • Play musical instruments
  • Drink fluids, etc.

Onset of sleepwalking

Sleepwalking is therefore a sleep disorder because it causes an alteration in normal behavior during this phase of daily life and can adversely affect the well-being of the individual. But, beyond its basic effects, sonamulism can begin to be pronounced in different ways.

It is known that this sleep disorder tends to occur in childhood with a prevalence of 20% and its onset usually occurs between 4 and 8 years old. Although many scientists claim that it is rare to find this disorder in adulthood, there is some evidence to support its existence in adults, perhaps not in a high percentage, but in a significant degree from 1 to 3%. In people who experience it in adulthood, it should be emphasized that both in its symptoms and in its etiology, it differs from the typical sleepwalking of childhood.

A study by Dr Guiezzepi Plazzi of the University of Bologna and published in the journal Neurological Science indicates that in children aged 4 to 6 years, this usually happens more often. It also concludes that in some people the impulse to maintain sexual relations takes place during an event of somnambulism, (to that somnambulistic sexual behavior is called him, or sexomnia).

Causes of sleepwalking

To date, there is no unified, evidence-based theory that explains the causes of sleepwalking. What seems confirmed is that it is hereditary: it was concluded that between 70 and 80% of sleepwalkers have loved ones who have had a sleep disorder throughout their life.

Some mental health professionals indicate that sleepwalking in children is associated with fatigue and anxiety. As for the adult stage, this could be associated with the consumption of a certain type of drug.

Treatment of night walking

To date, there is no specific treatment for this sleep disorder. What exists are preventive measures, which are aimed at suffering children and their parents, who must be vigilant so that when an episode occurs, the subject does not endanger their life.

If these episodes have occurred in both adolescence and adulthood, professionals recommend relaxation techniques, as well as alternative techniques such as hypnosis, yoga, etc. psychological intervention). Pharmacological treatment may be recommended if the patient is an adult and is indicated by a psychiatrist and according to his instructions.

Today, science continues to work to find the origin of sleepwalking. In the meantime, we will remain intrigued by the behavior of a person who, while sleeping, can act like an awake person.

Bibliographical references:

  • Navarro, F. and Tortajada, R. (1994). Behavioral Psychology, Volume 2, Faculty of Psychology, University of Malaga and Valencia.
  • Dee Unglaub Silinsiorn, (2009). Human physiology, an integrated approach. Madrid: Editorial Mèdica Panamericana.
  • Cavall, V. (2008). Modification and operation manual. Ecuador: Faculty of Psychological Sciences, University of Guayaquil.

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