Sleep Education

American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

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Sleepwalking - Symptoms & Risk Factors


Sleepwalking can involve strange, inappropriate and even violent behaviors. Someone who is sleepwalking may:
  • Get out of bed and walk around
  • Sit up in bed and open their eyes
  • Have a glazed, glassy-eyed expression
  • Do routine daily actions
  • Be difficult to wake up
  • Be confused
  • Quickly return to sleep
  • Not remember what happened
  • Have sleep terrors 
In rare cases someone who is sleepwalking may:
  • Leave the house
  • Drive a car
  • Engage in unusual behavior, such as urinate in a closet
  • Engage in sexual activity without awareness
  • Get injured
  • Become violent

Risk Factors

Sleepwalking is more common in children and affects both boys and girls. It can begin as soon as a child is able to walk. The rate of it in children is as high as 17 percent. It peaks by the time they are eight to 12 years old. Most children with it also had confusional arousals at a younger age.

Rarely, sleepwalking may begin at any time in the adult life, even when someone is in their seventies. Up to 4 percent of adults sleepwalk. In adults, men are more likely to display aggressive behavior when they sleepwalk.
There is a strong genetic and family link to having it. Your chance of having it can double or almost triple if one of both parents had sleepwalking episodes as a child or adult.

Episodes of sleepwalking and sleep terrors share many of the same causes. These include the following:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Hyperthyroidism (overproduction of thyroid hormones)
  • Migraine headaches
  • Head injury
  • Encephalitis (brain swelling)
  • Stroke
  • The premenstrual period
  • Bloated stomach
  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
  • Other sleep-related disorders or events
  • Travel
  • Sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings
  • Some medications
  • Alcohol use and abuse
  • Noise or light
  • Fevers in children
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