10 Things You Didn't Know About Sleepwalking

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

How common is sleepwalking?

As many as 40 percent of children have sleepwalked, and between two and three percent of adults sleepwalk — yet there is more to this parasomnia than meets the eye. Here are some interesting facts about sleepwalking.

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It's OK to wake someone who is sleepwalking

You've probably heard of the myth that says it's dangerous to wake someone who is sleepwalking. Although waking a sleepwalker is safe, it can be very difficult to do. Gently guiding them back to bed is usually the best option.

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You probably won't remember sleepwalking

You could be sleepwalking without even realizing it. When you sleepwalk, the areas of the brain associated with practiced movement (like walking) are awake, but the areas responsible for memory and decision-making are still asleep. Research also shows that it's not uncommon for men to urinate in odd places such as shoes while sleepwalking since they aren't 'awake' enough to reach the bathroom.

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Your family may be the cause of your sleepwalking

A Canadian study found that children with two parents who had a history of sleepwalking were seven times more likely to sleepwalk compared to children of parents with no sleepwalking history.

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Sleepwalking could make you violent

Sleepwalkers may act out their dreams, potentially causing harm to themselves or others. One study found violent sleep-related behaviors affected more than half of sleepwalkers.

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Sleepwalking could make you fearless

How's your head for heights? A 15-year-old British girl was once found curled asleep on top of a 130-foot tall crane at 2 a.m., while a German teenager dove out of a fourth-story window and stayed asleep even after hitting the ground.

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Sleepwalking may be a sign of Parkinson's disease

Sleepwalking usually occurs in the first third of the night. If you sleepwalk late at night and generally sleepwalk with your eyes closed, you could be suffering from REM behavior disorder, which is linked to neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

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Your medications may be making you sleepwalk

A number of drugs have been associated with sleepwalking, including beta blockers, antipsychotics, antidepressants and even sleeping pills such as zolpidem.

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Sleepwalking can make you gain weight

Sleep-related eating disorder can occur during sleepwalking; you could be walking into the kitchen and preparing food during the night without any memory of doing so. The only proof may be the mess you leave behind — or unexplained additional inches around your waist.

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Sleepwalking can be prevented

Practicing good sleep hygiene can help reduce the likelihood of sleepwalking. Avoiding sleep disruptors such as alcohol and stress can also help.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.