Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sleep Walking

What is Sleepwalking? Sleepwalking occurs when an individual is walking or performing otherwise normal actions while they are completely asleep and unaware. Sleepwalking occurs during slow wave sleep and for some reason a variety of behaviours are initiated resulting in the individual walking in their sleep. During REM, Rapid Eye Movement, sleep the sleep walking behaviour is exhibited. The lack of a chemical in the dream phase of sleep initiates this behaviour in affected individuals.

Generally, when individuals are in REM sleep the body produces a body paralysing chemical. So, no matter how crazy your dreams you won't be moving around and harmed in any way because the body is paralysed. However, individuals who sleepwalk lack this paralysing chemical and as a result walk around or perform other actions in their sleep.

Children between the ages of six and 12 have the most likelihood to sleep walk at least once. Most children will outgrow this disorder. Although sleepwalking may occur in adults and the elderly as well.

Parasomnia - Sleep Disorders Sleepwalking is classified under parasomnia. The other three types of parasomnia include sleeptalking, REM movement disorder, and sleep terrors. It is believed that at least half of the world's population suffers from one of these types of parasomnia at some point during their lives. However, many times individuals simply grow out of the disorder or can find relief through stress reduction, drugs, or even hypnosis.

Symptoms - Typical symptoms include walking or performing other actions while asleep. Amnesia typically follows these episodes and sleepwalkers rarely if ever remember their sleepwalking adventures. Stress, anxiety and fatigue are also symptoms of sleepwalking. When individuals are sleepwalking it is incredibly difficult to arouse them from this state. Generally, sleepwalking occurs during stages three or four of normal sleep. Different individuals experience different symptoms. However, the above stated symptoms are some of the most common sleepwalkers experience.

Treatments - Two successful treatments for sleepwalking include drugs and hypnosis. Both of these options have proven successful in both children and adults. If you suffer from sleepwalking, or someone you know does, then it is important to make an appointment with your doctor. Sometimes sleep tests are in order. After doctors have diagnosed sleepwalking and ruled out any psychological disorders then a treatment can be recommended to the sufferer. Many times treatment can eliminate sleepwalking episodes or reduce them significantly. The best thing to do is visit the doctor as soon as sleepwalking is suspected because just "letting it go" could result in injury or other problems for the affected individual.