Also known as somnambulism and parasomnia, sleepwalking is a sleep disorder. It can be defined as an unusual behavior that an individual carries out while asleep. Sleepwalking occurs during the non-REM sleep cycle. But how to stop sleepwalking? Is it dangerous? We bring you all the essential information here. Keep reading to know more.
What is Sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking is a condition where people get up and walk around while asleep. They may also perform activities, such as driving or eating during a sleepwalking episode. It is more common in children than in adults.
Children usually outgrow this condition in their teen years. Sleepwalking can also be a sign of a sleep disorder or an underlying medical condition. Therefore, proper treatment is necessary for people who experience recurrent sleepwalking episodes.
What Are the Causes of Sleepwalking?
Let’s understand what causes sleepwalking.
Genetics and family history
Sleepwalking can be a hereditary condition. If your parent suffers from the same, there is a high chance that you may too.
Poor sleep quality can be one of the causes of sleepwalking. According to a study, researchers found that severely sleep-deprived people experienced more episodes of sleepwalking than usual.
A few medications can cause sleepwalking. This includes antidepressants, antipsychotics, beta-blockers, and more. If so, you can ask your healthcare practitioner to change your medication.
Alcohol has been linked to sleepwalking and can also lead to poor-quality sleep. However, more research is needed on the subject.
Sleepwalking has been associated with high fever, mainly in children. When suffering from a fever, one may experience fever dreams similar to night terrors, which can lead to sleep disturbances and body movements.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
Obstructive sleep apnea is when your breathing stops for a while when you are asleep. It can cause extreme tiredness, high blood pressure, and more. It is also seen that people with sleep apnea are more likely to sleepwalk, compared to others.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Researchers are still unsure whether RLS or restless sleep syndrome causes sleepwalking. Some studies show that RLS doesn’t contribute to sleepwalking. However, there may be a link between RLS medication and sleepwalking.
Stress and anxiety can make it difficult for people to fall asleep. But it was also seen that daytime stress could lead to sleepwalking. In a study including 193 participants, it was noticed that daytime stress was the primary trigger of sleepwalking. Therefore, to combat this condition, you can take measures to control your stress. Trying things such as reducing caffeine intake, yoga, and relaxation techniques can help you.
How to stop sleepwalking
If you are experiencing sleepwalking symptoms, there are a few things you can do to combat the condition.
Keep an eye out for patterns
If you have been experiencing recurrent sleepwalking episodes, look for patterns. You can also ask your partner or family to note the date and duration of your sleepwalking episodes as it may help you understand the reason behind it. Having notes will make it easier for your healthcare practitioner too.
Get more quality sleep
Build a sleep-friendly bedtime routine
As aforementioned, good quality sleep is essential to prevent sleepwalking. To make it a possibility, consistency is the key. You can keep your room cool and comfortable, have a regular sleep schedule, limit your naps, avoid screen time before bed, and limit caffeine in the evening.
Get more exercise
Getting more exercise can make it easier for you to enjoy quality sleep. And if you don’t have time to work out in the morning, you can try to do it in the evening. According to research, nighttime exercise doesn’t interfere with your sleep cycle. But avoid doing it right before bed.
Take steps to cope with stress
As mentioned earlier, one of the causes of sleepwalking can be immense stress. Hence, you can take countermeasures to combat the same. Some of the best tips for stress relief are;
- Take care of yourself, such as eating healthily, exercising more, meditating
- Take breaks from social media and the internet
- Do more of what you enjoy
- Avoid drugs and alcohol
Try using the Power of Smell
One of the reasons you may experience sleep deprivation is a lack of a good night’s rest. Here, you can try using essential oils to help you sleep better.
Increase your calcium and magnesium intake
Not getting the right minerals can interfere with your sleep. Here, calcium and magnesium deficiency can impact your health. So, try to include more calcium and magnesium-rich food in your diet. Hence, your diet includes milk, yogurt, cheese, green vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Increase your Omega-3 intake
For vegetarians or vegans who don’t consume fish, it can lead to omega-3 deficiency and hamper your sleep. So, taking omega-3 supplements can help you out.
Consume Tryptophan-Rich Foods
Again, to ensure a good sleep, you must consume tryptophan-rich food, an amino acid that helps produce seratonin. This is a hormone that’s essential to feel sleepy. So, include tryptophan-rich food, such as chicken, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs.
Okay, hypnosis may feel too much, but it can help. According to research, sleepwalkers treated with hypnotherapy were 42% more likely to go without any sleepwalking episode in 18 months, and 40% will go episode-free in 5 years.
Sip some Sleep-Inducing Tea
If sleep deprivation is an issue behind your sleepwalking, herbal tea, such as chamomile is good for you. It can have a soothing effect on your mind.
How to Protect a Sleepwalker?
Take a look at a few easy steps on how you can protect a sleepwalker.
Set up an impromptu alarm
One of the things you can do to ensure you are aware of the sleepwalker’s movements is to attach a bell to the door. Ensure the sound isn’t too loud that it startles them awake.
Keep windows and doors locked and bolted
Sleepwalkers move around in their sleep, so you can keep all the doors and windows locked and bolted to make it difficult for them to step out.
Keep dangerous objects out of reach
Ensure there are no dangerous items in their bedroom or within reach that can lead to injuries. This can include knives, lighter, scissors, and more.
Remove clutter from the floors
A cluttered fall puts the sleepwalker at risk of falling and hurting themselves. So, whether it is toys or shoes, clear everything up.
Hang onto the car keys
Keep the car or bike keys with you to ensure the sleepwalker doesn’t drive away, as it can be dangerous.
Take extra precautions for kids
If your child is sleepwalking, maintain extra caution, such as;
- Don’t let your child sleep on bunk beds as they can fall and injure themselves
- If your child sleeps upstairs, install a gate to prevent them from walking out
- Turn down the set point on the water heater
- Ensure your child sleeps on the ground floor
- Make sure they enjoy a relaxing bedtime routine
- Don’t let your child consume too much water before bedtime
- Keep your child’s bedroom, cool, quiet, dark and comfortable
When to See A Doctor?
If you sleepwalk occasionally, it may not be a cause for concern. They generally go away on their own. However, you can always speak with your doctor for proper treatment. But, you must speak with your doctor immediately if;
- Your child’s sleepwalking has moved on to their teen years as well
- Your sleepwalking is more frequent
- Your sleepwalking is causing injuries
- It causes extreme sleep disturbances and causes daytime fatigue or daytime sleepiness
- Your sleepwalking has started for the first time in your adult life
Sleepwalking may not be a dangerous condition on its own but it can be dangerous since you are unaware of your activities as you are still asleep. It can be managed and treated, so you don’t have to worry. But, it is best to speak with your doctor.