- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
10 Sleep Hygiene Tips to Cure Sleepwalking Disorder or Somnambulism
Sleepwalking is medically known as somnambulism and it is a sleeping disorder more common among children than adults. It is a behavior disorder caused mainly by sleep deprivation. The person who is suffering from this disorder do the walking while he/she is in deep sleep. The patient is not able to share the experience at the time of sleepwalking later or in the morning because the complete action was done while he/she was in deep sleep.
The sleepwalking action combined with some other complex activities will last for 5 to 30 minutes and the time varies with individuals. It is very difficult to wake up the person doing sleepwalking because he/she is in deep sleep at that time. In most of the cases, the patient's actions are walking in the room, walking outside the room, walking around the house and in some rare cases they walk into distant areas from the house. Other activities include simply sitting in the bed, sleep talking etc.
Studies show that 15% of the children between the age group of 4 & 12 and 10% of the adolescents are experiencing sleepwalking problem. Sleepwalking disorder occurs during the first or second sleep cycles of the sleep and in these stages of sleep, the person will be in deep sleep. Because of this reason, in the morning the patient is not able to remember or detail the experience about previous night's sleepwalking or any other activities related to it.
Sleepwalking mainly characterized by the walking with open eyes, but in some cases, the person goes to bathroom, do dressing or undressing and even drive the car as the part of sleepwalking activities. The duration of these sleepwalking activities can last from a few seconds to 30 minutes.
Why We Sleepwalk?
What are the Symptoms of Sleepwalking?
The person who are doing sleepwalking keep his eyes open while doing this activity; but he is not seeing or responding to anything or to anybody. Some special behavior patterns can be seen in sleepwalking persons such as:
- Sitting in the bed without watching the surroundings.
- Sleep talking.
- Urinating in bathroom or some other odd places.
- Lack of response to other's queries.
These typical behaviors are showing by the person only at the time of sleepwalking and all other times he/she will behave in a very normal manner. Another important characteristic of the disorder is that the patient could not recollect or remember his/her activities at the time of sleepwalking.
What May Be the Causes of Sleepwalking?
The main cause of sleepwalking is sleep deprivation. Disturbed sleep schedule, alcoholism, stress and the side effects of some sedative drugs using for some other disease may also become the causes of this disorder. Some medical conditions such as high fever, nighttime asthma, sleep apnea, personality disorder etc. can cause sleepwalking problem in some persons.
Genetic factors sometimes influence the attack of this disorder. If your identical twin is showing this disorder, your chance for having this disease is 10% higher than normal. Sleepwalking disease of some close relatives such as siblings may increase the possibility for becoming a prey to this disorder.
Treatment Options Available for Sleepwalking
Normally sleepwalking disorder does not require medical consultation. Most of the sleepwalking cases can be cured by taking measures to get good and sound sleep daily and for this the patient should follow some sleep hygiene steps strictly. But a doctor should be consulted if the patients gets repeated injuries while doing sleepwalking, doing harmful activities like leaving the house, doing sleepwalking in daytime also or if there is any suspicion of a seizure disorder.
The doctor will look for the causes of this disorder by doing some psychological evaluation. Sometimes the root cause of the disease may be stress, anxiety or fatigue. Usage of some stimulants (drugs, alcohol etc.) also will become the reason for sleepwalking. Doctor will do necessary analysis to find out the particular reason for the disorder.
Hypnosis is successfully using as a treatment method for sleepwalking in adults. Pharmaceutical therapy by prescribing antidepressants will be advised to some patients for short periods. Bezodiazepines, trazodone and clonazepam in low doses are the usual medicines used for the treatment for sleepwalking.
Common Guidelines for Sleepwalking Patients
In addition to the treatment procedures using drugs, some advices will be given to the patients to get long term relief from the disorder. Common guidelines for sleepwalking patients are:
- Get enough and peaceful sleep.
- Avoid any kind of stimulants, especially prior to bedtime.
- Do meditation and relaxation exercises.
- Create a sleep friendly atmosphere in the bedroom.
Precautionary Measures That Is To Be Taken for the Protection of Sleepwalking Patients
Some precautionary measures also should be taken for the safety of sleepwalking patients in their home.. Some of them are:
- Remove any glass items and knife like objects (sharp objects) from the bedroom.
- Lock the windows and doors.
- Close the stairs by installing gates.
- Remove any obstacles from the bedroom that may obstruct the patient's sleepwalking.
10 Sleep Hygiene Practices for Good Sleep
Good sleep can be acquired by following some good sleep habits or sleep hygiene. For those who have difficulty to get enough sleep or good sleep, practicing sleep hygiene will become helpful Some important steps of sleep hygiene practices are:
- Go to bed at the same time every day.
- Do not oversleep or that will affect the next day's good sleep.
- Use the bed only for sleeping.
- Make the bedroom soundproof, if possible, to avoid disturbances from outside.
- Avoid watching TV shows or reading books having exciting contents just before sleep.
- Avoid stress and fatigue.
- Avoid cigarettes, alcohol and excessive caffeine.
- Engaging a brief period in aerobic activities four hours before bedtime may be helpful.
- Avoid vigorous activity before bedtime.
- Avoid snoozing.
Sleepwalking is not a serious disease, but it can be a symptom of some other disorders. The importance is to be given for taking precautions to avoid any injury that may be caused during the patient's sleepwalking activities.