Sleepwalking

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  • Violent attacks on the person trying to awaken the sleepwalker

TREATMENT:

There is no specific treatment for sleepwalking. In many cases simply improving sleep hygiene may eliminate the problem. If you are experiencing symptoms, you should talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist about ways to prevent injury during the episodes and about the possibility of underlying illness. Also, be prepared to discuss with your doctor or pediatrician any factors, such as fatigue, medication, or stress, which may trigger symptoms.

Treatment for sleepwalking in adults may include hypnosis. In fact, there are many cases in which sleepwalking patients have successfully treated their symptoms with hypnosis alone. Also, pharmacological therapies such as sedative-hypnotics or antidepressants have been helpful in reducing the incidence of sleepwalking in some people.

Sleepwalking is common in children and is usually outgrown over time, especially as the amount of deep sleep decreases. If symptoms persist through adolescence, consult your doctor or psychiatrist.

COPING:

As sleep deprivation often contributes to sleepwalking, increasing the amount of time scheduled for sleep can be helpful. Other possible triggers for sleepwalking include alcohol and certain medications. Also, experts recommend establishing a regular, relaxing routine prior to bedtime to cope with sleepwalking.

Creating a safe sleep environment is critical to preventing injury during sleepwalking episodes. For example, if your child sleepwalks, don’t let him or her sleep in a bunk bed. Also, remove any sharp or breakable objects from the area near the bed, install gates on stairways, and lock the doors and windows in your home.

POLL DATA:

According to the National Sleep Foundation's 2004 Sleep in America Poll, 1% of pre-school children and 2% of school-aged children walk in their sleep at least a few nights per week.

Reviewed by Mark Mahowald, M.D.