Having someone sleep walking through your house at 3 a.m. is a terrifying experience for anyone who’s ever had that happen to them.
One of the most widely held beliefs is that people who are sleeping should not be disturbed. It’s interesting how many different myths there are about sleepwalking.
Sleepwalking cannot be avoided, sleepwalkers should never be awakened or they sleep with their eyes closed, and sleepwalking can happen to anyone are the common myths about sleepwalking.
In this article, we will tackle sleepwalking, its causes, and the common sleep walking myths associated with it.
Table of Contents
What Is Sleep Walking?
Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is when a person wakes up and walks over while still asleep. It is more common in children compared to adults, and it is usually exceeded by adolescence.
Sleepwalking infrequently does not always indicate a serious problem or necessitate treatment. Recurrent sleepwalking, on the other hand, could indicate an underlying sleep disorder.
Sleepwalking is more likely to be confused with or coexist with other sleep disorders and medical conditions in adults. If a member of your family sleepwalks, it’s critical to keep him or her safe from the dangers of sleepwalking.
Sleepwalking is a parasomnia, or unwanted behavior or experience while sleeping. It is an arousal disorder that occurs during the deepest stage of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Sleep terrors are another NREM disorder that can occur in tandem with sleepwalking.
Sleepwalking can sometimes be triggered by underlying sleep-disrupting conditions, such as:
- A group of disorders characterized by abnormal breathing patterns during sleep or known as sleep-disordered breathing (for example, obstructive sleep apnea).
- Taking certain medications for psychiatric disorders, such as hypnotics, sedatives, or antidepressants
- Alcoholism, for example, is a form of substance abuse.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a type of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
What Causes Someone to Sleepwalk?
Sleepwalking has been linked to a variety of factors, including the following:
There appears to be a significant genetic influence in sleepwalking for children and adults, according to a sleepwalking study conducted with twins. Furthermore, if one or both parents have a history of sleepwalking, children are more likely to do so.
Stress has a variety of negative effects on the body and mind. Sleepwalking can be triggered by stressful events like family conflict, loss, work-related issues, or even changes in the sleep environment.
While stress has been linked to sleepwalking, it isn’t always the cause. Even though many people are stressed, sleepwalking is still a rare occurrence.
3. Lack of sleep
For a variety of reasons, getting enough rest is critical. Sleep deprivation has been linked to sleepwalking, according to some research. Although sleep deprivation, like stress, is unlikely to be a cause of sleepwalking, it is frequently reported in sleepwalkers.
In one study, those who were already predisposed to sleepwalking experienced a reduction in the frequency and complexity of sleepwalking events after 25 hours of sleep deprivation
You don’t need to wake up a sleepwalker who poses no threat to themselves or others. Not only could you scare them, but you could also wake them up. Instead, calmly lead the sleepwalker back to bed, avoiding physical contact as much as possible.
4. Terrors in Sleep
Panic and distress are common symptoms of sleep terrors. Screaming, crying, flailing, or kicking in their sleep are common responses to sleep terrors. Around the age of 18 months, sleep terrors are more common in young children.
Sleepwalkers are more likely to develop sleepwalking tendencies later in life if they have had sleep terrors as a child.
5. Medication and alcohol
Both alcohol and certain medications can impair sleep quality and make sleepwalking more likely. It’s critical to read medication labels and be aware of any potential side effects.
Many medications or drug combinations have been shown to increase the number of sleepwalking episodes.
One study looked at 29 drugs (7) that could cause sleepwalking, with zolpidem and sodium oxybate being the most common.
A sleepwalker may cause harm to themselves or others in certain situations. In these cases, rousing them may be preferable.
Calling out their name or speaking loudly will usually wake a sleepwalker. Avoid shaking or grabbing them, as this may frighten them further.
Stay out of their reach in case they feel attacked. Explain that they’ve been sleepwalking once they’re awake. Try to wake them up again later if you need to.
Sleep Walking Myths Debunked
Sleepwalking is referred to as an arousal disorder, and whether or not a person sleepwalks is usually determined by their family history. It is triggered by sedatives, medications, or fever in those who are predisposed to it.
It is a widely held belief that sleepwalkers should not be awoken. Some people believe that waking the sleepwalker will put him at risk of a heart attack. Most people, however, believe that the person who is walking is in more danger.
When people are woken up from the non-REM (rapid eye movement) phase of the sleep cycle, research has shown that they can become aggressive.
Sleep drunkenness, which is similar to sleepwalking, was blamed in 20 cases of murder and 30 criminal offenses in one study. Other studies warn against arousing sleepwalkers because they may resist or become violent.
Here are 7 common myths on sleepwalking that have been debunked:
Myth 1: A sleepwalker should never be woken up
Sleepwalking is the subject of several fascinating myths. “You should never wake a sleepwalker,” is one of the common myths. The origins of this legend can be traced back to ancient cultures who came to believe that the soul left the body while sleeping.
As a result, a soulless awakened sleepwalker. However, because there is no scientific evidence that we lose our souls while sleeping, there is no metaphysical reason to not wake up a sleepwalker.
In practice, waking up sleepwalkers is often difficult, and attempting to do so may prolong the sleepwalking episode. Sleepwalkers should be redirected back to their beds as soon as possible.
If that works, they should have no recollection of the sleepwalking episode when they wake up.
Myth 2: Sleepwalking can happen to anyone at any time
Sleepwalking is a type of partial arousal, according to experts, in which part of the brain is awake and part is asleep.
This usually happens in the first half of the night, and it happens at the same time every night, around the end of the first or second period of stage 3 non-rapid eye movement sleep.
Myth 3: Sleepwalking is not dangerous
Fact: Sleepwalkers have been known to engage in dangerous activities and, if precautions are not taken, they can harm themselves and others.
According to Dr. Loghmanee, sleepwalkers have engaged in dangerous activities such as leaving the house in the winter, climbing out of windows and driving.
Sleepwalking in children, on the other hand, is usually harmless, he claims. Basic safety protocols such as locking doors and doors at night and putting sharp objects such as knives and scissors away at bedtime can protect most families’ children.
Myth 4: Only adults experience sleepwalking
Another myth is that if sleepwalking starts or continues in adulthood, it’s due to serious psychological or psychiatric issues. Sleepwalking affects about 17% of children and 4% of adults, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Sleepwalking is more common in children, but it can also occur in adults, and it can be triggered by alcohol, fever, or lack of sleep.
There is no evidence that sleepwalking is linked to serious mental illnesses. The presence of a strong hereditary component appears to be one of the major determinants of whether or not one will be a sleepwalker.
Even the most common triggers, such as sedatives, fever, and certain medications, only cause sleepwalking in people who are genetically predisposed to it.
Myth 5: Sleepwalking has no impact on behavior during the day.
Sleepwalking can cause sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness. Sleepiness in children is more commonly manifested as inattention and hyperactivity than dozing off.
The brain is partially awake and asleep, resulting in which the brain is awake enough to allow for highly complex behaviors but not awake enough to allow for conscious awareness.
Sleep isn’t just for our minds to relax; it’s also for our bodies to heal. So if your body is walking around doing random things while your mind is sleeping, you won’t be getting much rest. To put it another way, it affects the quality of your sleep.
As a result, sleepwalkers are generally more tired during the day. They might not realize why because they appear to have had a restful night’s sleep. Sleepwalking, on the other hand, is exercise, and you shouldn’t exercise when you’re sleeping.
Myth 6: Sleepwalkers keep their eyes closed at all times.
Sleepwalkers are always shown on screen walking around like zombies with their eyes closed and arms outstretched as they shamble around. Regrettably, this isn’t true of all sleepwalkers.
Some sleepwalkers can keep their eyes open (which is how they can drive long distances). They may appear dazed and glassy, but they can still see things in front of them. It’s just that their brains are asleep, and they aren’t looking consciously.
So, if you see a sleepy family member wandering in the middle of the night, he or she may be sleepwalking.
Myth 7: Sleepwalking cannot be avoided.
Although most children grow out of sleepwalking, there are ways to reduce your chances of doing so.
The most important thing is to get enough good sleep. That means avoiding alcohol, sleeping in a dark, quiet room (with no bright mobile phones nearby), and not eating heavy or spicy food too close to bedtime.
The person who is attempting to awaken a sleepwalker may encounter some resistance or even aggression, but there is very little chance that the person doing the waking will suffer any harm as a result.
To put it another way, if the sleepwalker isn’t deterred and helped back to sleep, his health could be in danger.
As difficult as it may be, waking someone who is a sleepwalker could be the only option if they refuse to return to bed even after gentle prodding.