Sleep walking or medically termed as somnambulism is common to children. It affects approximately 14 percent of children ranging from five years old to twelve years old. For children with somnambulism, almost 25 percent of them are experiencing various episodes during sleeping. Boys are more commonly affected with somnambulism than girls. When the child becomes an adolescent, somnambulism may subside because of the maturation of the nervous system.
Experts believe that somnambulism is caused by problems in the brain associated with the sleep cycle. Normally, the whole brain is awake at a certain period of time. However, for children with somnambulism, a certain part of the brain remains awake. The portion of the brain that is responsible for movements remains awake while cognition and awareness is asleep. This is the reason why even if the child is sound asleep, moving about can happen.
While the child is in deep sleep, walking can happen because the motor functions are active. Those who are sleepwalking would often stand up and leave their beds as if they’re truly awake. The eyes of people who are sleepwalking remain open but you would realize that they’re sleeping because of the blank expression that can be seen on their faces. They would also not respond if you call their names or if you ask them about something. Tripping over is also common to sleepwalkers because they are really unaware of what they are doing. These episodes of moving through will take one hour to two hours, and then the patient would return to bed. Normally, sleepwalking lasts for about fifteen minutes although some may take longer than one hour.
There is no specific treatment for sleepwalking and the occurrences will subside as the child grows up. If you have a child that sleepwalks, what you need to do is to let the child return to bed but not wake him up.
Although majority of children who sleepwalks would overcome it as they reach their adolescent stage, 1 percent of them may continue manifesting episodes of sleepwalking. Sometimes, adults who did not experience sleep walking in their childhood may develop it in their adulthood. The usual causes of sleep walking in adults would include anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation, and underlying medical conditions such as epilepsy.
For adults who are sleepwalking, the treatment can vary depending on the manifestations and the harm that can possibly happen. For adults that are going out during a sleep walking episode, more harm is possible compared to those who are just walking inside their houses. This is because a lot of things can happen outside aside from the fact that leaving the house at night is already dangerous. Treatments that are available for these adults are behavioral modifications, some medications, and hypnosis.
For the significant others of patients suffering from sleep walking disorder, it would be best to always prioritize their safety and security so that harm can be prevented. Necessary precautions should be done such as removing objects that can cause harm to the person who sleepwalks. Aside from that, doors should be properly locked so that people who are sleepwalking can’t open it to go outside. Bells and door alarms can also be used so that you would know if the person who sleepwalks attempts to open the door. For glass windows and doors, protection drapes should be in place because there are great possibilities that these people would pass through these glass doors.
Sleepwalking disorder is not harmful to one’s health; however, it is the environment that can cause threats to the person’s safety and security. Therefore, it is necessary that possible dangers should be eliminated or prevented.