From Mayo Clinic
Sleepwalking — also known as somnambulism — involves getting up and walking around while in a state of sleep. More common in children than adults, sleepwalking is usually outgrown by the teen years. Isolated incidents of sleepwalking often don’t signal any serious problems or require treatment. However, recurrent sleepwalking may suggest an underlying sleep disorder.
Sleepwalking is less common in adults and has a higher chance of being confused with or coexisting with other sleep disorders as well as medical and mental health conditions.
If anyone in your household sleepwalks, it’s important to protect him or her from sleepwalking-related injuries.
Sleepwalking is classified as a parasomnia — an undesirable behavior or experience during sleep. Sleepwalking is a disorder of arousal, meaning it occurs during slow wave sleep, the deepest stage of dreamless (non-rapid eye movement, or NREM) sleep. Another NREM disorder is sleep terrors, which can occur together with sleepwalking.
Sleepwalking usually occurs early in the night — often one to two hours after falling asleep. It’s unlikely to occur during naps. A sleepwalking episode can occur rarely or often, and an episode generally lasts several minutes, but can last longer.
Someone who is sleepwalking may:
- Get out of bed and walk around
- Sit up in bed and open his or her eyes
- Have a glazed, glassy-eyed expression
- Do routine activities, such as getting dressed, talking or making a snack
- Not respond or communicate with others
- Be difficult to wake up during an episode
- Be disoriented or confused for a short time after being awakened
- Quickly return to sleep
- Not remember the episode in the morning
- Sometimes have problems functioning during the day because of disturbed sleep
- Have sleep terrors in addition to sleepwalking
Rarely, a person who is sleepwalking will:
- Leave the house
- Drive a car
- Engage in unusual behavior, such as urinating in a closet
- Engage in sexual activity without awareness
- Get injured, for example, by falling down the stairs or jumping out a window
- Become violent during the confused period after awakening or, occasionally, during the event
When to see a doctor
Occasional episodes of sleepwalking aren’t usually a cause for concern. You can simply mention the sleepwalking at a routine physical or well-child exam. However, consult your doctor if the sleepwalking episodes:
- Occur often — for example, more than one to two times a week
- Lead to dangerous behavior or injury to the person who sleepwalks (which may occur, for example, after leaving the house) or to others
- Cause significant sleep disruption to household members or embarrassment to the person who sleepwalks
- Start for the first time in an adult
- Continue into your child’s teen years
Many factors can contribute to sleepwalking, including:
- Sleep deprivation
- Anxiety, such as separation anxiety in children
- Sleep schedule disruptions
- Some medications and substances, such as short-acting hypnotics, sedatives or combinations of different drugs prescribed for psychiatric illnesses, as well as alcohol
Sometimes sleepwalking can by triggered by underlying conditions that interfere with sleep, such as:
- Sleep-disordered breathing — a group of disorders characterized by abnormal breathing patterns during sleep (for example, obstructive sleep apnea)
- Restless legs syndrome
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, head injury or stroke
Factors that may increase the risk of sleepwalking include:
- Genetics. Sleepwalking appears to run in families. It’s more common if you have one parent who has a history of sleepwalking, and much more common if both parents have a history of the disorder.
- Age. Sleepwalking occurs more often in children than adults, and onset in adulthood is more likely related to other health conditions.
Sleepwalking itself isn’t necessarily a concern, but sleepwalkers can:
- Easily hurt themselves — especially if they walk near furniture or stairs, wander outdoors, drive a car or eat something inappropriate during a sleepwalking episode
- Experience prolonged sleep disruption, which can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and possible school or behavior issues
- Be embarrassed or experience problems with social relationships
- Disturb others’ sleep
- Injure someone who is close by during the period of brief confusion immediately after waking or occasionally during the event
Preparing for your appointment
If you have concerns about safety or underlying conditions, you may want to see your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist.
What you can do
Here’s some information to help you prepare for your appointment.
- Keep a sleep diary for two weeks before the appointment to help your doctor understand what’s causing the sleepwalking. In the morning, record as much as you know of bedtime rituals, quality of sleep, and so on. At the end of the day, record behaviors that may affect sleep, such as sleep schedule disruptions, caffeine intake and any medications taken.
- Make a list of any symptoms experienced, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for the appointment.
- Make a list of key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or other supplements currently being taken, and the dosages.
- Bring a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember what the doctor says.
- Prepare questions to ask your doctor to help you make the most of your time together.
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing the symptoms or condition?
- What are other possible causes?
- What kinds of tests are needed?
- Is the condition likely temporary or chronic?
- What’s the best course of action?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach you’re suggesting?
- Are there any restrictions that need to be followed?
- Is referral to a specialist needed?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Don’t hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
- When did you begin experiencing or noticing symptoms?
- Have you or your child had sleep problems in the past?
- Does anyone else in your family have sleep problems?
- What problems have you noticed related to the sleepwalking, such as awakening in unusual locations of the house?
Tests and diagnosis
Unless you live alone and are completely unaware of your sleepwalking, chances are you’ll make the diagnosis of sleepwalking for yourself. If your child sleepwalks, you’ll know it.
Your doctor may do a physical or psychological exam to identify any conditions that may be confused with sleepwalking, such as nighttime seizures, other sleep disorders or panic attacks. In some cases, a sleep study in an overnight sleep lab may be recommended.
To participate in a sleep study, also known as a polysomnogram, you’ll likely spend the night in a sleep lab. A technologist places sensors on your scalp, temples, chest and legs using a mild adhesive, such as glue or tape. The sensors are connected by wires to a computer. A small clip is placed on your finger or ear to monitor the level of oxygen in your blood.
Polysomnography records your brain waves, the oxygen level in your blood, heart rate and breathing, as well as eye and leg movements during the study. Technologists monitor you throughout the night while you sleep.
Your doctor will review the information to determine whether you have any sleep disorders.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for occasional sleepwalking usually isn’t necessary. In children who sleepwalk, it typically goes away by the teen years.
If you notice your child or anyone else in your household sleepwalking, gently lead him or her back to bed. It’s not dangerous to the sleepwalker to be awakened, but it can be disruptive — the person may become confused and disoriented, and possibly agitated.
Treatment may be needed if there are negative consequences for the sleepwalking, such as risk of injury or embarrassment, or if there’s distress for others.
Treatment may include:
- Treating the underlying condition, if the sleepwalking is associated with sleep deprivation or an underlying sleep disturbance, medical condition or a mental health disorder
- A change of medication, if it’s thought that the sleepwalking results from a drug
- Anticipatory awakenings ― waking the sleepwalker about 15 minutes before the person usually sleepwalks, then staying awake for five minutes before falling asleep again
- Medication, such as benzodiazepines or certain antidepressants, if the sleepwalking leads to the potential for injury, is disruptive to family members, or results in embarrassment or sleep disruption for the person who sleepwalks
- Learning self-hypnosis
Lifestyle and home remedies
If sleepwalking is a problem for you or your child, try these suggestions.
- Make the environment safe for sleepwalking. If sleepwalking has led to injuries or has the potential to do so, consider some of these precautions to prevent injury: Close and lock all windows and exterior doors at night. You might even lock interior doors or place alarms or bells on the doors. Block doorways or stairways with a gate, and move electrical cords or other objects that pose a tripping hazard. Sleep in a ground floor bedroom, if possible. Place any sharp or fragile objects out of reach, and lock up all weapons. If your child sleepwalks, don’t let him or her sleep in a bunk bed.
- Get more sleep. Fatigue can contribute to sleepwalking. If you’re sleep deprived, try an earlier bedtime, a more regular sleep schedule or a short nap, especially for toddlers.
- Establish a regular, relaxing routine before bedtime. Do quiet, calming activities before bed, such as reading books, doing puzzles or soaking in a warm bath. Meditation or relaxation exercises may help, too.
- Put stress in its place. Identify the issues that cause stress, and brainstorm possible ways to handle the stress. Talk about what’s bothering you. Or if your child seems anxious or stressed, talk with him or her about any concerns.
- Look for a pattern. For several nights, note ― or have another person in your home note ― how many minutes after bedtime a sleepwalking episode occurs. If the timing is fairly consistent, this information is useful in planning anticipatory awakenings.
Try to be positive. However disruptive, sleepwalking usually isn’t a serious condition — and it usually goes away on its own.
Your doctor could soon be prescribing crucial shuteye as treatment for everything from obesity to ADHD to mental health as experts say carving out time for sleep is just as important as diet and exercise
Jan. 5, 2015 at 2:44 AM ET
For tweens who got a tablet or smartphone for the holidays, their new bedtime routine may involve Netflix helping them doze off. But don’t think that’s better than watching TV before bed. A new study finds that even small-screen devices interrupt children’s sleep.
Experts have known that a flickering TV in the bedroom cuts into children’s sleep time. A researcher at the University of California, Berkeley wondered if small screens, such as those found on tablets and smartphones, influenced children’s sleep, too.
“Much less is known about new forms of media, like smartphones,” says Jennifer Falbe, lead author of the study, which appears in the journal Pediatrics. “[They] have the potential to impact sleep, perhaps to a greater degree than traditional media.”
Falbe studied results from the Massachusetts Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration, where 2,048 fourth-and seventh-grade students answered questions about their sleep and TV, smartphone, and tablet habits.
What the new research found:
- Children who dozed off near a small screen said they slept 20.6 minutes less than their peers who snoozed away from electronic devices.
- More importantly, children attached to small screens complained of interrupted sleep, something that even those who watched loads of TV or slept with a TV in the room did not admit to feeling.
- Those who were lulled to sleep by a TV admitted to 18 fewer minutes a sleep.
- Children who spent a lot of time during the day watching TV or videos or playing videogames also reported sleeping less.
The study didn’t look at why small screens impact sleep, but Falbe says a few factors play a role.
“While any type of light can suppress melatonin release, blue light emitted from electronics has a stronger impact on melatonin release,” she says. “Content can be engaging and emotionally arousing.”
While children may treat tablets and smartphones like another appendage, experts say there are ways to stop them from migrating to the bedroom.
“[Smart phones and tablets] are robbing the kid of the nightly routine of how to go to bed and get to sleep,” says Michele Borba, a parenting expert and TODAY Parents contributor.
She believes children need to learn how to fall asleep without help from electronics and recommends that phones and tablets are worked into the nighttime routine. Children will soon know that they can’t use electronics a half hour before bed.
Parenting expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa takes it one step further: parents should keep all chargers in their bedrooms and tell their children they must “park” their devices in their rooms. The ping of a text will no longer cause a child to spring from bed to check a phone or tablet.
“Kids genuinely believe … communication is actually that urgent,” says Gilboa. “Every one of those messages feels impossible to ignore.”
6 Reasons to Love to Sleep
Songs romanticize it; fairytales reference it. Sometimes we even dream about it. It’s sleep and many of us can’t (or don’t) get enough of it.
Why is sleep so wonderful? Everyone has their own reason for valuing their beauty rest, but like love, it all comes down to how it makes use feel. Here are six reasons to love sleep:
- It can help you lose weight
Studies have suggested links between sleep and weight, which means that more sleep means that you could actually gain less weight.
- It’s beauty’s ally
Beauty sleep isn’t a myth! Recent research shows there’s a link between getting a good night’s rest and physical appearance.
- It helps support your immune system
Lack of sleep can help make us more prone to catching illnesses, including the flu.
- It makes you happier
Studies show that lack of sleep has a powerful impact on mood.
- It can help manage stress
Running short on sleep can hinder focus, causing concentration and effectiveness to suffer and energy levels to decline. All of which diminishes our overall performance which can, in turn, lead to stress.
- It’s good for your brain
Research suggests that both quantity and quality of sleep have an impact memory and learning.
Love your sleep, but feel like you can never get enough? Visit our website to learn more about SleepTracker, a revolutionary portable sleep monitor that wakes you up feeling refreshed and energized!
It is normal for sleep habits and activity cycles to change a bit as the seasons change, according to Dr. Emerson M. Wickwire, Sleep Medicine Program Director at Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Associates in Columbia, Md., assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. If you experience excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue or a noticeable change in your mood, irritability or ability to think or remember clearly, then you should talk to a board-certified sleep physician.
“The biggest mistake that people make when it comes to sleeping in winter is ignoring their body’s natural rhythm. Even if you’re tempted to stay in bed or on the couch all day long, unless you are sick it’s a good idea to get up and move around.”
Staying in bed or on the couch all day long when you’re not sick may throw off your circadian rhythms. The visual cues of light and darkness “set” this internal clock keeping it synchronized to a 24-hour cycle.
A number of sleep disorders that are linked to misaligned circadian rhythms including insomnia, jet lag andshift work disorder. Abnormal circadian rhythms have also been blamed for depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder, which is more common in the winter.
WINTER SLEEP TIPS
- Increase exposure to light
- increase or maintain physical activity
- Use a humidifier or nasal rinse to keep your airway passages from drying out
- Make sure that your bedroom is not too warm or too cold
A MUST watch for EVERYONE!
Sleep and performance go hand in hand!
At age 37, Tom Brady is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
But every time he starts to look his age, he manages to put together a string of strong performances in which he looks like the Brady of old.
On Monday, Brady did an interview with WEEI radio in Boston, and he talked about how he stays youthful.
One of his strategies: getting plenty of sleep.
In a recent column, ESPN’s Bill Simmons said that Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman told him Brady goes to sleep at 8:30 each night.
WEEI asked Brady about the 8:30 p.m. bedtime. He said he went to sleep so early because football was the only thing he loved to do, and all his decisions were designed to keep him playing at an age when most players retire.
“Strength training and conditioning and how I really treat my body is important to me, because there’s really nothing else that I enjoy like playing football,” he said. “I want to do it as long as I can.”
Here’s his entire answer when asked about his sleep habits (full audio here):
I do go to bed very early because I’m up very early. I think that the decisions that I make always center around performance enhancement, if that makes sense. So whether that’s what I eat or what decisions I make or whether I drink or don’t drink, it’s always football-centric. I want to be the best I can be every day. I want to be the best I can be every week. I want to be the best I can be for my teammates. I love the game and I want to do it for a long time. But I also know that if I want to do it for a long time, I have to do things differently than the way guys have always done it.
I have to take a different approach. Strength training and conditioning and how I really treat my body is important to me, because there’s really nothing else that I enjoy like playing football. I want to do it as long as I can.
Later in the conversation, Brady talked about how different his lifestyle was from his early days in the NFL. He said he was “fast and loose” when he was 25 but would not change a thing:
The 25-year-old Tom Brady had a great time. I probably wouldn’t change much from those days … I was kind of fast and loose back then … I wouldn’t change anything when I was 25.
I tell [young players], I say, ‘You guys live it up, enjoy it. Because there’s going to be a time when you don’t have that opportunity again.’ You try to make good decisions and your mistakes you don’t want to be permanent. But when you’re in your youth, you should have fun and do those things that young guys do.
Brady has three years left on an extension that he signed in 2013. The $26 million in base salary for those three years becomes guaranteed if he’s still on the team for the last game of this season — which is a certainty at this point. If he plays out his contract, he’ll still be quarterbacking the Patriots at age 40.
Can we teach ourselves “lucid dreaming?” This blog by Shirley Wang in The Wall Street Journal explores research in the field that suggests ways to help creativity and problem-solving. “Lucid dreaming” may help people with mental health issues improve their sense of self-control, she writes:
Anthony Bloxham was standing in the garden of his house when he wondered if he was dreaming.
To figure it out, he looked at his hands. Experts in a phenomenon known as lucid dreaming, where sleeping people are aware that they’re in a dream, say dreamers should look for reality checks, or details that look different in dreams than in real life. Indeed, Mr. Bloxham’s hand was glowing yellow, so he realized he was asleep.
Some lucid dreamers are able to control elements of their dreams once they realize they’re dreaming. They do what’s impossible or unlikely in real life, like fly or meet famous people. Mr. Bloxham, 21, a recent university graduate from Mansfield, England, who stumbled onto the concept on the Internet and thought it sounded like fun, recalls the feeling of swimming through the air-though he hasn’t flown, as he’s wanted to.
Others use the technique to solve problems, spur creativity, overcome nightmares or practice a physical skill, says Daniel Erlacher, a professor at the University of Bern’s Institute for Sport Science, who has conducted surveys of lucid dreamers.
Researchers are studying people like Mr. Bloxham to understand if lucid dreaming can improve dreamers’ abilities when they’re awake.
Psychologists at the University of Lincoln in England found in a June study that people with frequent lucid dreams are better at cognitive tasks that involve insight, like problem-solving. Other researchers have shown that people who dream of practicing a routine can improve their abilities in that activity in real life. Early evidence also suggests that lucid dreaming may help improve depressive symptoms and mental health in general, perhaps by giving people a greater sense of self-control.
Many of the studies are small, however, and it isn’t always clear whether lucid dreaming is responsible for the improvements or simply linked to them, experts say. People vary tremendously in how often they remember their dreams, as well as their degree of awareness and control while dreaming.
Most people aren’t aware when they’re dreaming, which tends to occur in a stage known as rapid-eye movement, or REM, sleep. Yet even with the body in a very deep sleep, the mind is very active.
Having awareness during the dream state, and the added ability to control the dream, as portrayed in the movie “Inception,” isn’t a regular occurrence for most people. Surveys suggest that about half of us will have at least one experience in our lifetimes. About 20% or more have routine lucid dreaming experiences, according to studies conducted by Dr. Erlacher and his team in Switzerland.
The plot of the 2010 film “Inception” involves the idea of lucid dreaming.
Lucid dreaming comes more easily to some people, but experts say it can be learned. The low number of people able to lucid dream at will, particularly in a sleep lab, is one of the main challenges with conducting research on the phenomenon. Another obstacle is figuring out when people are actually lucid dreaming, since it isn’t clear whether people’s recollections upon waking are accurate.
Patrick Bourke and Hannah Shaw are researchers from the University of Lincoln, and lucid dreamers themselves. They set out to investigate in their recent study whether frequent lucid dreamers had different ways of thinking while awake, compared with non-frequent lucid dreamers. They hypothesized that awareness while dreaming may be related to those “aha!” moments often necessary in problem-solving. The study was published in Dreaming, a journal of the American Psychological Association, in June.
In the lab, 20 people who say they haven’t had the experience of being aware that they’re dreaming, 28 occasional lucid dreamers and 20 frequent lucid dreamers completed a problem-solving task. They were given three words and had to figure out a word to go with each. For instance, stone pairs up with the trio of age, mile and sand.
The frequent lucid dreamers were significantly better at solving these puzzles than the non-dreamers. The occasional dreamers fell in the middle but weren’t statistically different from either of the other two groups.
Why frequent dreamers showed improved performance wasn’t clear from the study. The authors speculated that the ability to make more remote associations and question unusual details could be more finely honed in the lucid group. The authors don’t know if the lucid dreamers differed from the other groups in terms of intelligence or other cognitive skills.
Other studies looking at different cognitive tasks also suggest that lucid dreamers perform better than non-lucid dreamers.