Anyone can sleepwalk

Anyone can sleepwalk

any time between the first and second
year of life

to as late as in their 70s.

There are three types of behaviours

that can occur when you suddenly
wake from deep sleep.

You can have very mild
confusional arousal,

where you wake up, look around,
maybe do some automatic behaviour,

go back to sleep.
And that's very common.

The more distressing
are children who wake screaming

and they look very frightened

and they're sweating and terrified and
parents get very distressed about it.

But again, they have no memory
of it the next day.

And then you have the more complex
behaviours of sleepwalking.

The most common trigger, of course,
is stress

or people who are not very good
at letting go at bedtime,

so they don't create closure and carry a
lot of mental activity to bed with them.

It occurs usually
in the first part of the night

because that is when we have most
of our deep sleep.

And it occurs as you wake very abruptly
from deep sleep,

so instead of waking gently
and going to the next sleep stage,

these young people wake very abruptly

and they are in a sort of dissociate
state, half asleep and half awake.

You have to manage it
and look at other triggers.

In younger children, it's just making
sure that they are safe,

parents understanding
that it's not doing them any harm.

Because sometimes parents think,
"If I don't let them have a daytime nap,

they won't sleepwalk."

But that's not true,
because they need more sleep,

so if they're tired,
they might need a little nap,

so they don't go into such deep sleep.
So sleep deprivation should be avoided.

You need to make sure
that there are no intrinsic triggers,

like obstructive sleep apnoea,
periodic leg movements.

Sometimes just a full bladder.

It's quite common, sleepwalking,

to get up and pass urine
in the wardrobe instead of the toilet.

So the impulse to empty the bladder
has caused the sleepwalking,

so make sure
they don't drink a lot of fluids,

that they've emptied their bladder
several times before they to go bed.

During the sleepwalking
behaviour itself,

they need to make sure that the child
is safe or the adult is safe,

but not intervene, because
if they intervene, they will lash out.

Lead them back to the bed gently,
go into whatever they're thinking about.

Agree with them. Don't start arguing.

Get them back into bed, and when
they're in bed, then wake them fully,

because you don't want them to go back
into that same deep sleep cycle.

And then let them settle back to sleep.

The sleepwalking behaviours in an adult,
the same principles hold.

Making sure they're not sleep deprived,
they're not on drugs,

they don't have the two sleep disorders
we discussed.

Sometimes,
if they're very high-risk behaviours,

then we will give medication,

especially to take if they're staying in
a hotel or in an unfamiliar environment

where they may put themselves at risk.

Occasionally they do need sleep studies.

Most people sleepwalking
don't need sleep studies.

Sleepwalking is very common.

About 20% of children will sleepwalk
sometime in their life

and most of them will grow out of it.

The figure for adults is around 4%,
so the majority have grown out of this.