Sleepwalking is a sleeping disorder in children and adults but is more prevalent in the former than the latter. Also called somnambulism, sleepwalking is high in children who have bed-wetting problems. Most kids outgrow this problem before teenage.
Sleepwalking is the act of walking and performing complex tasks. Activities can be as harmless as sitting up in the bed and staring blankly, to dangerous activities such as using electrical appliances, driving cars, and wandering outside.
Classic cases of sleepwalking usually occur during the first three non-REM (non-rapid eye movement, dreamless) stages of sleep. People who sleepwalk have no idea of what is happening and do not recollect their actions upon waking up.
If a person sleepwalks during the REM stage of the sleep, it is referred to as REM Sleep Behavior Disorder and not sleepwalking. In this case, the person is probably enacting a dream and most often remembers it.
Symptoms Of Sleepwalking
An episode of sleepwalking may last from a few minutes to an hour. Sleepwalkers usually have a blank expression, and their behavior is purposeful. Most sleepwalking episodes occur one to two hours after the child had gone to sleep.
Common symptoms of sleepwalking in children include:
- Walking and performing tasks while in deep sleep – they could eat, get dressed, etc.
- Talking or mumbling in sleep
- Repetitive motions such as walking in circles, opening and closing doors, saying the same things again and again
- Little or no memory of what they did during the event
- Inappropriate behavior such as urinating wherever they are
- Violent behavior
- Screaming is a common symptom when sleepwalking occurs along with night terrors
- Does not respond when spoken to – no acknowledgment of the presence of other people in the room
- Clumsy movements.
Occasionally, children also wander outside their safe zones when they sleepwalk, which makes sleepwalking dangerous.
Causes Of Sleepwalking In Children
Sleepwalking can occur due to one of the following reasons.
- Lack of sleep is the most common cause of sleepwalking in children.
- Irregular sleeping habits – changing bedtimes, disturbed sleep.
- Illness or fever.
- Stress or anxiety can also cause sleepwalking and other nocturnal disorders.
- Medical conditions that result in disturbed sleep; for example, children with sleep apnea, epilepsy, and restless leg syndrome (RLS) have a higher chance of sleepwalking.
- A full bladder may trigger an episode of sleepwalking and maybe urinating in inappropriate places.
- Night terrors may result in sleepwalking.
- Sleepwalking can also be hereditary.
While the above-mentioned points are common causes of chronic sleepwalking, sedatives, medications, head injuries, and migraines can also result in episodes of sleepwalking sometimes.