Sleepwalking is also known as somnambulism. It usually involves meaningless, confused wandering by an individual at night. It might include sitting up straight or indulging in other activities while wandering that the individual barely remembers. Our sleep involves multiple stages. A person is often found to be sleepwalking in the deeper stages of Sleep (Stage 3 and Stage 4). This stage is usually reached around 90 minutes or so of sleeping. It is most common in kids as opposed to adults. It usually, resolves on it’s own as the child reaches teenage. However, if it is prolonged a definite management might be necessary.
Causes of Sleep walking
There might be a number of causes responsible for the habit of sleep walking. To mention the most commonly encountered ones:
- It might be due to certain medical conditions, like: GERD, seizures or obstructive sleep apnea etc.
- Other reasons could be: fatigue, mental stress, irregular sleeping patterns or as a side effect of certain medications.
How to Keep A Sleep walker Safe?
The individual wanders about the house or sometimes, even outside with no awareness of what he/ she is doing or no knowledge about what he/ she is doing might cause physical harm to him/ her or others around. It is the responsibility of the family members to avoid any unfortunate accidents. To ensure this, the following precautions need to be taken:
- Make sure to lock all the doors and windows prior to bed time.
- Make sure there is no water or slippery liquid on floor.
- Any other obstructions like mats, clothes etc should be cleaned off the floors.
- Keep away all the sharp objects like knives, pins, staples or crockery made out of glass. Match sticks, lighters etc that might be potentially harmful should be put away in safe places and locked. Turn off the gas from your cooking stove.
- You may put an alarm or a bell on their bedroom door so that you know when they are walking out of the room.
- You may arrange for their beddings on floor or low beds so that they do not fall down, accidentally.
- Avoid bunk beds for sleep walkers.
Prevention of Sleep walking
- As you must be able to figure out the causes by now, avoiding these trigger factors is the best way of avoiding sleep walking:
Play some soft music prior to bed time and make sure the bedding, mattresses and temperature of the room is comfortable and conductive of sleep.
- Avoid watching any movie etc that triggers up the mind emotionally. Avoid any kind of violent shows.
- Practice mental relaxation techniques like: Yoga, meditation and deep breathing.
- Have a light dinner. Do not skip any meal all together.
- A warm glass of milk before skeeping is believed to induce sleep.
- Do not sleep at odd times. Go to bed the same time every day.
- Talk out your problems with somebody to distress.
- Scheduled awakening, usually about 15 minutes earlier than the usual time of an sleep walking episode is found to be very effective.
- Avoid excessive intake of fluids in evening as this disturbs sleep at night.
Treatment of Sleep walking
- Reassurance and counselling forms a very important aspect of the treatment.
- If you encounter a child/ person while an episode of sleep walking, it is best not to awaken the child as this would make him feel embarrassed and conscious. This can have a negative influence his/ her self esteem.
- It is best to gently redirect the individual towards his or her bedroom and not to confront him at that point of time.
- Underlying medical causes need to be eliminated to uproot the problem.
- In case of obstructive apnoea, surgical management has to be done to remove the cause of obstruction in the airway.
- Consult your doctor regarding pharmacological management of sleep walking.