Sleepwalking can be a frightening experience. frightening for the friends and family of the victim that is. Unless of course the sleepwalker suddenly wakes up in unfamiliar surroundings. That could be the stuff of nightmares for the sleepwalker. I mean, imagine this, one moment you were nestling your head on your soft pillow sound asleep, only to wake up to find yourself at the edge of the big gully behind your block. With just one step separating you from instant death.
The only time I had an experience with somebody having this problem was way back in high school. I had heard scary tales of the things Mike does while sleeping. I thought they were too fanciful. Until the day I was coming back from the toilet late one night. And there was Mike, heading towards me on the passage. The guy was looking straight at me in a funny way; as if i wasn’t there. His eyes had this faraway, glazed, unfocused look about them. Suddenly he stopped, changed direction and starting running towards the football field. I was too shock to say anything. Somehow, he managed to jump a small gutter on his way. That is the thing about people with this problem. Though unconscious, they have this guiding system that tells them how to navigate safely while sleepwalking.
As for Mike, when I asked him what that was all about in the morning, he looked at me as if I had gone bonkers. He had no idea what I was talking about. I almost believed I imagined the whole thing. But I remembered the other scary stories I heard. Truly, sleepwalking can be a scary thing.
Causes of Sleepwalking
Medically known as somnambulism, sleepwalking is much more than just walking in sleep. It can involve performing complex tasks while sleeping and it is much more common in children than in adults. Contrary to popular beliefs, sleepwalking is rarely caused by the way one sleeps at night. Though it can be a contributing factor.
The causes of sleepwalking are as varied as the problem is complex. These include sleep deprivation; tiredness; stress; high body temperature caused by illness; a feeling of depression; and anxiety and drugs including some prescription drugs to treat some ailments can all lead to sleepwalking.
The list is not exhaustive. The factors that cause the problem, as earlier mentioned, are as many as there are people experiencing it. That is, the cause depends on the individual suffering from it.
Symptoms of Sleepwalking
The most common symptom of sleepwalking is walking or moving about while asleep. Sleepwalking usually happens when a person is sleeping deeply. Sometimes it can occur when the person is not yet sleeping very deep. That is, sleepwalking can start during the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stage . In this case, it happens within a few hours of falling asleep.
Apart from walking during sleep, other most notable symptoms of the problem include Sleeptalking, Medically known as somniloquy, which involves talking during sleep while completely unaware of it.
-loss of memory or very little recollection about the whole episode
-being unable to raise the sleepwalker during the event
-very strange and sometimes embarrassing behavior during sleepwalking
-screaming, which occurs when the sleepwalking episode is tied to a particularly bad dream.
-in some cases, the sleepwalker might turn very violent if an attempt is made to wake them up.
Prevention and Treatment
Since sleepwalking is not a disease per se, there is no specific treatment for it. The best that can be done is to manage the problem so that the effects on the victim would be minimal. But there are some measures that could be taken to mitigate the problem or prevent it from starting.
-if the triggers for sleepwalking episodes in a person are linked to medications to treat some other disease, then the best option in this case is to talk to the doctor to provide alternative medication. Also, curing the underlying medical conditions leading to sleepwalking can simply make the problem disappear.
The option of medications can also be explored if the sleepwalker is at risk of injury to themselves or others. These medication are given to make sure a night of uninterrupted sleep is made possible. But these medications must be stopped after a few weeks. Especially if the problem stops.
-Unorthodox treatment or prevention options can be used. An effective technique involves waking up the sleep walker several minutes before the usual time the sleepwalking starts. Then keep the person awake for the duration of normal attacks. Repeated use of this technique will condition the person to always wake up just before it starts.
Using a very good therapist or in extreme cases a hypnotist can be effective in teaching the victim to sleep all through the night. It is all about getting the sleepwalker to remain calm and relaxed throughout the night.
Though sleepwalking can be frightening, it is rarely a serious disorder. In children it tends to peter off as they get older. They just outgrow it. Did you outgrow the problem or you know somebody who did? We’ll love to hear your experiences dealing with it.