While there are a bunch of different ways to get poor sleep, sleepwalking is definitely one of the strangest. You’re in a deep sleep, but your body is up and moving around. You can even start to fall into routines during sleepwalking: waking up, brushing your teeth, eating, even driving a car! Whether you suspect you or someone you love is a sleepwalker, here are five interesting facts about sleepwalking you should know.
1) Sleepwalking Leads To Weird Nighttime Behaviors
Some sleepwalkers have very average behaviors when they sleepwalk. In some cases, the person only sits up or walks around the room. However, other cases can be much more extreme and lead to disturbing, dangerous behaviors like driving your car, leaving the house, using knives or power tools, and even engage in sexual activity.
These behaviors are extremely abnormal, even for sleepwalkers, but it’s important you try to find out what someone is doing when they sleepwalk so you can figure out what’s causing it and how to make sure they remain safe.
2) Sleepwalking Could Be Genetic
Yes, it’s true! It’s been noted in several studies that sleepwalking does seem to run in families. About 80% of sleepwalkers have a family history of sleepwalking, and an identical twin is much more likely to sleepwalk if their other twin sleepwalks. Talk to your family to see if sleepwalking has ever been a problem before and ask how the individual was able to stop or lessen sleepwalking occurrences.
3) Sleepwalking Can Be a Symptom of Fatigue
Even though it seems counterintuitive, sleepiness can trigger sleepwalking. Fatigue could be the result of high stress, poor sleep hygiene, or even prolonged poor sleep as the result of a sleep disorder. You’re especially prone to sleepwalking if you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Nearly 10% of all OSA patients experience “parasomnia” symptoms like hallucinations, sleepwalking, and even acting out their dreams. If your sleepwalking is caused by a sleep disorder, you should try to seek out testing and treatment to lessen, or even prevent, your sleepwalking.
4) It’s OK to Wake Up a Sleepwalker
There’s a lot of misinformation out there, but waking up a sleepwalker is totally okay! Especially if they are prone to dangerous activity during sleepwalking. It is an old wives’ tale to not wake up a sleepwalker, so don’t worry about it.
If you do wake a sleepwalker, be aware that they may be confused or disoriented. So be sure to approach them carefully and with caution.
5) Most Children Will Sleepwalk at Some Point
It’s unlikely that, as an adult, you’ll start sleepwalking without cause--only about 1-15% of the US population over 18 sleepwalks. But children are far more likely to sleepwalk because they get less REM sleep than adults do.
Most sleepwalking in children happens between 3 and 7 years old and is more likely to occur if they are also bed wetters.
These are just a few facts about sleepwalking that can help you understand the condition a bit better. But sleepwalking has many underlying causes and most sleepwalkers have different triggers, so there is no one size fits all solution. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you or someone you love is sleepwalking, then follow up to figure out the possible causes and treatments.