Prevention

8 Facts About Sleepwalking

Allison Tsai Mar 25th, 2013 (updated May 19th, 2014)
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Many myths persist about sleepwalking, a condition that can affect both children and adults. Here’s some of the more recent research reflecting what the science says about this phenomenon.

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Some sleepwalkers remember doing it
Some sleepwalkers remember doing it

Children and teens who sleepwalk often don’t remember them due to neurophysiological reasons. Sleepwalkers appear to be partially awake and partially asleep, which explains why some people remember. It also means that the brain does not fall asleep all at once. Instead,  certain areas fall asleep before others.

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Sleepwalking is not automatic
Sleepwalking is not automatic

Another sleepwalking myth is that it is automatic, which means you don't have any motivation or rationale for doing it, you just do it. However, recent research has found that many people remember what they did and why, and are even able to determine that their actions were illogical, but made sense in the moment.

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Sleepwalkers are sleepy during the day
Sleepwalkers are sleepy during the day

Teen sleepwalkers are better able to hide their sleepiness. But when compared to teens who did not sleepwalk, they performed worse on vigilance tests. If they were allowed to take a nap, the sleepwalking teens also fell asleep more quickly than teens that had not been sleepwalking.

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Sleepwalking is most prevalent in kids 6 to 12 years old
Sleepwalking is most prevalent in kids 6 to 12 years old

The reason sleepwalking is more prevalent in kids is because transitioning from sleep to wakefulness requires maturation of the brain, which can be difficult for children in this age range. Typically, sleepwalking will go away after puberty, but in 25 percent of cases it continues into adulthood.

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Sleepwalking is generally harmless
Sleepwalking is generally harmless

Usually sleepwalking is harmless, because events are short. Sleepwalking occurs when deep-wave sleep is broken. In rare instances, longer episodes can take place which put the sleepwalker or others at risk, such as driving a car while asleep.

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Sleepwalking is genetic
Sleepwalking is genetic

Almost 80 percent of sleepwalkers have a family history.  An identical twin is five times more likely to sleepwalk if their twin is a sleepwalker.

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Stress and tiredness can cause sleepwalking
Stress and tiredness can cause sleepwalking

The new data also showed that stress and tiredness can cause sleepwalking. In people who are prone to sleepwalking, any kind of sleep disruption can trigger sleepwalking to occur.

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Sleepwalkers are prone to other health issues
Sleepwalkers are prone to other health issues

Researchers found that sleepwalkers tend to experience daytime sleepiness, fatigue, insomnia, depression and anxiety more often than people who do not sleepwalk. Another recent study found that sleepwalking could potentially trigger violent behavior and affect overall health.