Have you ever found yourself traipsing through the house in the middle of the night, with no memory of what you were doing or how you got there? It is possible you may have been one of the millions of people around the world partial to sleepwalking. A very common condition, but how much do we know about it?
Sleepwalking, often otherwise referred to as noctambulism or somnambulism is a type of sleep disorder from the parasomnia family. A state where a person carries out tasks while being asleep and not completely awake at the same time.
If you are among the scores of people in the UK who sleepwalk, it usually takes place during deep sleep, while experiencing low consciousness. Generally, you will sleepwalk through the slow-wave sleep stage of non-rapid eye movement sleep, also known as NREM.
You will reach your peak at the beginning of the night, where you may start sleepwalking in the first few hours after falling asleep. This is when you can perform everyday activities when asleep which you would usually do when awake. Ranging from talking out loud, to sitting up in bed or walking around the house, from going to the bathroom to wandering about in the dark.
Furthermore, you could reportedly carry out more complex tasks when sleepwalking, from cooking to reaching for imaginary items and even getting in the car and trying to drive, amongst other instances. However, in many cases, you will only sleepwalk once a night, where it may last from 30 seconds to less than ten minutes or occasionally longer, and you may not remember what you did.
Your eyes may be open, and you could have a glazed, blank look, which can be disconcerting. Sleepwalking can impact your special awareness and knowledge of your environment, as well as your judgement and problem-solving capability, which could have potentially harmful consequences. It is not uncommon for people to suffer falls, or cuts and bruises when they have been waking in their sleep, so you should watch out.
People of all ages can experience sleepwalking, but the majority of cases are found in children, where 20% of youngsters in the UK will sleepwalk on at least one occasion in their life. The majority will stop sleepwalking when they get to puberty, but it can often continue when they grow up.
However, it is not known what exactly causes sleepwalking, although some suggest it runs in families. Many believe you may have a greater chance of sleepwalking if you have an irregular sleep pattern or are woken abruptly from a deep sleep, often by a loud noise. Children may be prone to sleepwalking if they are suffering from a fever, or if they are afflicted with another sleep disorder such as restless leg syndrome. There have also been instances of people living with anxiety and depression, as well as grown-ups abusing drugs, alcohol or prescription medication like sedatives, to sleepwalk.
It is a state which affects all age groups across the UK. Many do not fully appreciate how much of an inconvenience it can be, but if you tend to sleepwalk, you can avoid mishap or injury with the help of family and friends. They can keep a close eye on you while you sleepwalk to prevent any accidents, which could see you through your night-time excursions in safety.