Sleepwalking or somnambulism has been a very intriguing behavior since the time it was first identified. About 15% people worldwide are sleepwalkers and a majority of them are children. More than the sleepwalker, this habit distresses people around him more. If you happen to be one of them, you can check out why it happens.
On the other hand, if you live with one, this article will give you insights on how to wake them in a manner that’s safe for both you and the sleepwalker.
Common Causes Of Sleepwalking
Scientific researchers have found that sleepwalking usually happens in the stage of deep sleep or non-REM. Some just sit up and stay in bed while others start moving around in the house. They are usually found doing normal activities like going to the loo, changing clothes, cooking or even worse, trying to drive the car. The common causes of sleepwalking are:1
- Sleeping in an unfamiliar environment after a long journey.
- Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
- Being constantly stressed due to school, parental pressure, work or personal troubles.
- Going to bed in an intoxicated state. Abusing alcohol, anti-sedatives, beta blockers, antidepressants or psychedelic drugs can make you more prone to sleepwalking.
- Being persistently deprived of sleep can trigger sleepwalking in both kids and adults.2
- One or both of your parents have been sleepwalkers as adults or children and you’ve inherited it.3
Myth About Waking A Sleepwalker
A popular urban legend about sleepwalking advises against trying to wake a sleepwalker. However, long-term studies have found that not waking up a sleepwalker could lead to catastrophic consequences. According to the myth, waking a sleepwalker could give them a heart attack. However, that’s bogus.
Scientists claim that since sleepwalking usually occurs during Stage 3 or non-REM sleep which is very deep, waking up a person during this stage can keep him dazed and sleepy for at least half an hour. This is called sleep inertia wherein the cognitive abilities of the sleepwalker are impaired.
This is the reason why if you try to aggressively wake up a person at this stage, he seems like he has no control over actions. Therefore, you have to handle the situation very carefully and softly for the sake of safety.4
Tips To Safely Wake A Sleepwalker
It can be unnerving to see your loved one sleepwalking and risking his life. But this is the time for you to put your brave foot forward and follow these tips with care.
- Don’t shake a sleepwalker forcefully as you could startle them.
- Guide them gently by talking softly to them.
- Makes sure that they can walk without stumbling over toys or other objects on the way back to their room.
- If they resist, stay with them until they can be led back to the room again.
- If you are scared of waking them up through touch play their favorite music loudly so that they wake up on their own.
- Some sleepwalkers tend to go the garage and start the car, in such cases get help to avoid any dangerous circumstances.
- Sleepwalkers who tend to cook should be escorted from the kitchen after ensuring that the stove and other kitchen appliances have been turned off.
If the incidences of sleepwalking are becoming more frequent, it’s best to identify the root of the issue and seek professional help to overcome it. This is crucial in preventing any harm to the sleepwalker and the people around him.
|↑1||Sleepwalking – Overview & Facts. American Academy Of Sleep Medicine|
|↑2||Pressman, Mark R. “Factors that predispose, prime and precipitate NREM parasomnias in adults: clinical and forensic implications.” Sleep medicine reviews 11, no. 1 (2007): 5-30.|
|↑3||Licis, A. K., D. M. Desruisseau, K. A. Yamada, S. P. Duntley, and C. A. Gurnett. “Novel genetic findings in an extended family pedigree with sleepwalking.” Neurology 76, no. 1 (2011): 49-52.|
|↑4||Popat, Shreeya, and William Winslade. “While you were sleepwalking: science and neurobiology of sleep disorders & the enigma of legal responsibility of violence during parasomnia.” Neuroethics 8, no. 2 (2015): 203-214.|