Sleepwalking disease, also known as somnambulism, is a condition in which a person awakens, walks, or engages in other activities while sleeping. Despite the fact that it may affect anybody, this ailment is more frequent in children.
Sleepwalking sickness starts approximately 1-2 hours after falling asleep and can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. Sleepwalking is uncommon in youngsters and normally goes away as they become older.
This condition, on the other hand, needs to be properly monitored since if it persists, it might lead to damage from falling or striking hard objects.
Causes of Sleepwalking Disease
The aetiology of sleepwalking sickness is unknown for certain. On the other hand, this condition is thought to be passed along from parents to children. A person is at high risk of experiencing sleepwalking if both parents have a history of this disease.
The sleepwalking disease can be experienced by anyone. However, this condition is more common in children. Although the exact cause is not known, there are a number of conditions that are often associated with sleepwalking, namely:
- Lack of sleep
- Irregular sleep
- Use of certain medications, such as antipsychotics, stimulants, or antihistamines
In addition to the conditions above, several health conditions, such as fever, GERD, heart rhythm disorders, asthma, sleep apnea, or restless legs syndrome, are also often associated with the sleepwalking disease.
Symptoms of Sleepwalking Disease
Basically, sleep is divided into 2 stages of sleep, namely the stage of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and the stage of non-rapid eye movement (NREM). This stage will take place in an iterative cycle. During the NREM stage, there will be 3 phases of sleep, namely:
- Eyes are closed in Phase 1, however it’s still simple to wake awake.
- Phase 2, during which the heart rate slows, the body temperature drops, and the body prepares for deep sleep.
- Period 3 is a deep sleep phase during which it is difficult to wake up.
Sleepwalking sickness occurs in phase 3 of the NREM stage. When experiencing sleepwalking disease, a person will usually experience complaints and symptoms, such as:
- Take a walk while sleeping
- Perform various activities while sleeping
- Sitting in bed with eyes open but still sleeping
- Eyes open but with a blank stare
- Confusion and can’t remember what to do when you wake up
- Delirious and not responding to conversations
- Behaves aggressively or rudely when awakened
- Sleepy during the day
Sleep disorders that occur in adults can involve more complex behaviours, such as cooking, eating, playing a musical instrument, and even driving.
When to go to the doctor
Check with a doctor if you or your child experience the complaints and symptoms mentioned above, especially if they occur frequently and have interfered with daily activities, and endanger yourself or others.
You should also check with your doctor if you have a disease or condition related to sleepwalking, such as restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.
If you have been diagnosed with a sleepwalking disease and given treatment, have regular check-ups. In addition to monitoring the effectiveness of treatment, this routine check also aims to reduce the risk of complications.
Diagnosis of Sleepwalking Disease
To diagnose sleepwalking disease, the doctor will ask questions about the complaints experienced, medical history, and medications that are being consumed. The doctor will also ask family or roommates about the patient’s sleeping habits.
The doctor will also perform a physical examination to determine other possibilities that accompany or cause sleepwalking disease. Next, the doctor can perform a series of supporting examinations, such as:
Polysomnography or sleep study is done by recording all sleep activities to observe brain waves, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, breathing patterns, and eye and leg movements, which occur during sleep.
Electroencephalography (EEG) is used to measure electrical activity in the brain if the doctor suspects that another health condition may be causing sleepwalking.
Sleepwalking Disease Treatment
The sleepwalking disease generally does not require treatment, because it can go away on its own. However, if this condition is already dangerous or bothering many people, then treatment is needed.
Sleepwalking disease treatment will be tailored to the underlying cause. Some of the treatment methods that can be done are:
Application of sleep hygiene
When experiencing sleepwalking disease, a person is advised to improve the environment and previous poor sleep habits. Implementing sleep hygiene can be done in several ways, namely:
- Create a regular sleep pattern
- Avoid consumption of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages close to bedtime
- Urinate before going to bed
- Make the bedroom as comfortable as possible
- Doing activities that can relax the mind before going to bed, such as taking a warm bath or reading a light book
In addition, people with the sleepwalking disease are also advised to improve their lifestyle by managing stress in a positive way and exercising regularly.
One example of psychotherapy that can be done is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to change the patient’s mindset regarding the sleep disorder they are experiencing while improving sleep quality.
Giving drugs aims to reduce the frequency of sleepwalking every night. Some types of drugs that can be given are antidepressants or benzodiazepines, such as clonazepam.
If this disorder occurs at the same time every night, another way to overcome it is to wake the sufferer 15-30 minutes before the symptoms of sleepwalking disease appear. That way, the sleep cycle will change and it is hoped that it will relieve the condition experienced.
If your child often has the sleepwalking disease, make additional safety guards on each side of the bed to prevent them from getting off the mattress. If necessary, supervise your child nightly or hire a nurse to perform this special task. It should also be noted, the most important thing in the treatment of sleepwalking disease is to ensure that there are no other disorders or diseases that accompany the sleepwalking disease. If other disorders are found, the disease must be treated.