Sleepwalking/Somnambulism: (from Latin: somnus = sleep, ambulus = walking) an arousal from NREM sleep followed by walking or other complex behaviors. Also known as Somnambulism, is a parasomnia in which a person gets out of bed and performs activities such as walking because they are neither fully awake or asleep. It is very common in children, although some adults experience them.


      Sleepwalking, like other  "classical" arousal disorders (Sleep terrors and confusional arousals) occurs during the transition from sleep to wakefulness. Episodes arise after a cycle of deep sleep, usually in the first third of the night. Behavior varies greatly. Some people jump out of bed quickly and begin moving about. Others sit up in bed first and look around as if confused. Sleepwalkers tend to have wide open eyes that look "glassy" or stare through people.
     Actions range from mundane to boisterous. This may include eating or performing routine chores such as getting dressed. The activity will not likely make complete sense. For example, the sleeper may climb out of a window, urinate in a closet, or place household objects into the refrigerator. Verbal responses may have nothing to do with the question asked. Sleepwalkers tend to speak slowly using incomplete sentences. Behavior varies from harmless to dangerous. Wandering outdoors in cold weather or without wearing clothing, driving a car, or walking into traffic while sleepwalking could lead to injury or legal consequences.


      Children who sleepwalk normally do not require medical intervention, unless their behavior becomes too aggressive for parents to manage. Adults who sleepwalk are more likely to benefit from the advice of a doctor because they are more likely to cause injury or to have an underlying medical problem, such as obstructive sleep apnea.
    Diagnosis begins with a careful medical history to determine whether the episodes are secondary to another health condition, or a side effect of medication. Providing a two week sleep log of your sleep habits (or those of your child) and possibly video tapes will demonstrate the sleepwalking behavior to your doctor or sleep specialist. In adults, an overnight sleep study will conclusively identify this sleep disorder, which can look similar to sleepwalking and confusional arousals. The sleep study involves an overnight polysomnogram, which records brainwaves, muscular activity and breathing during sleep. The sleep study may also record sleepwalking episodes on videotape.


    Sleepwalking in children tends to fade on its own by the teen years. Treating other problems such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) may be enough to restore normal sleep patterns.     
Behavioral Modification removes unwanted behavior that contributes to sleepwalking.
Healthy Sleep Habits will eliminate unnecessary interruptions during sleep.
Parents can take specific measures to ensure their child's safety during an episode.
>  Keep in mind that your child will not remember the episode.
>  Respond in a calm, reassuring manner to avoid frightening her.
>  Try not to awaken your child.
>  Watch over your child until she returns to sleep.

Sleepwalking Mechanics

     Sleepwalking is specific to a certain portion of sleep. Sleep is divided into stages or degrees of sleep. The brain behaves differently during each sleep stage. Like other NREM Arousal Disorders, Sleepwalking occurs during stages 3-4 of NREM sleep, the deepest sleep. Sleepwalking episodes may look alot like someone is acting out a dream or nightmare. However, NREM sleep is not associated with much dreaming. Areas of the brain involved with movement and physical activity become "awakened" or activated, while other areas remain asleep. However, the person is not awake enough to be fully conscious of the behavior, nor is the episode likely to be remembered.

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