A – Z of Illnesses & Conditions

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Sleepwalking: Sleepwalking is classified as a parasomnia that is an undesirable behaviour or experience during sleep. Sleepwalking involves getting up and walking around while asleep. Most common in children between the ages of 4 and 8, sleepwalking often is a random event that does not signal any serious problems or require treatment. However sleepwalking can occur at any age and may involve unusual, even dangerous behaviours such as climbing out a window or urinating in closets or trash cans.

The exact cause of sleepwalking is unknown, but it seems to run in families. You're more likely to sleepwalk if one or both of your parents have a history of sleepwalking or night terrors. The following factors can trigger sleepwalking or make it worse:
  •     sleep deprivation
  •     fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  •     stress and anxiety
  •     fever 
  •     drinking too much alcohol
  •     taking recreational drugs 
  •     certain types of medication, such as some hypnotics
  •     being startled by a sudden noise or touch and waking from deep sleep, or waking from deep sleep to pass urine  
There's no specific treatment for sleepwalking, however taking steps to prevent these triggers, such as getting enough sleep, doing activities to relieve stress and relaxing before going to bed will help. 

Preventing accidents: It's important to keep the areas of your home where a person may sleepwalk free of breakable or potentially harmful objects, and to remove any items they could trip over. It's also a good idea to keep windows and doors locked. If your child sleepwalks, don't let them sleep on the top bed of a bunk bed. You may also want to fit safety gates at the top of the stairs.

Occasional sleepwalking episodes don't need further assessment. It's only necessary to seek medical help if the number of sleepwalking episodes increases, or if the behaviour leads to dangerous activities that risk injury to the person sleepwalking or to others.

See Night Terrors


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