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sleep walking

the cause of sleep walking and other research into it

jake robins

on 11 July 2011

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Transcript of sleep walking

Also known as somnambulism, is a sleep disorder belonging to the parasomnia family. Sleepwalkers arise from the slow wave sleep stage in a state of low consciousness and perform activities that are usually performed during a state of full consciousness. Although generally sleepwalking cases consist of simple, repeated behaviours, there are occasionally reports of people performing complex behaviours while asleep, although their legitimacy is often disputed. In 2004, sleep medicine experts in Australia claimed to have successfully treated a woman who claimed to have sex with strangers in her sleep. In December 2008, reports were published of a woman who sent semi-coherent emails while sleepwalking, including one inviting a friend around for dinner and drinks. Sleepwalkers often have little or no memory of the incident, as they are not truly conscious. Although their eyes are open, their expression is dim and glazed over. Sleepwalking may last as little as 30 seconds or as long as 30 minutes. Anna Freud, Sigmund's daughter, did a lot of investigative work on this subject and sleepwalking is a relatively "normal" finding in the pediatric population. There appears to be a genetic or inherited factor as it often runs in families, but as we age, the phenomena of sleep walking generally resolves. Heres a dog sleep running! Psychologists and other investigators have shown that children who sleep walk are usually normal in every respect but a few studies have suggested that in some of the parasomnias some children may have inner conflicts that they are not able to verbalize. And in a few cases, family counseling and reassurance have been all the therapy necessary in patients with frequent parasomnias. So there appears to be a tendency for children to have this, a tendency for an inherited component, and especially as the patient becomes older, a possible psychological element. According to Lavie, Malhotra, and Pillar, "The length and content of sleep cycles change throughout the night as well as with age. Sleepwalking generally occurs during the first third of the night (between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.)[9] during the slow wave NREM sleep stage. High delta activity within the brain usually accompanies slow wave NREM sleep, and when 20–50% of all activity is delta activity, stage 3 is scored. When delta activity reaches 50% or higher, stage 4 is scored.[11] Usually, if sleepwalking occurs at all, it will only occur once in a night. Several experts theorize that the development of sleepwalking in childhood is due to a delay in maturation. There are also high-voltage delta waves in somnambulists up to 17 years of age. This presence might suggest an immaturity in the central nervous system, also a possible cause of sleepwalking. Sleepwalking is clustered in families, and the percentage of childhood sleepwalking increases to 45% if one parent was affected, and 60% if both parents were affected. However, there is no recorded preference to male or female individuals. Thus, heritable factors appear to predispose an individual to develop sleepwalking, but expression of the trait may be also influenced by environmental factors. Other precipitating factors to sleepwalking are those factors which increase the slow wave sleep stage. These most commonly include sleep deprivation, fever, and excessive tiredness. The use of some neuroleptics or hypnotics can also cause sleepwalking to occur. Causes of sleep walking: There are some drugs that can be prescribed for sleepwalkers such as a low dose benzodiazepine, tricyclic antidepressants, and clonazepam. However, for most sleepwalkers, many experts advise putting away dangerous items and locking doors and windows before sleep to reduce risks of harmful activity. Good sleep hygiene and avoiding sleep deprivation is also recommended.

There are conflicting viewpoints on whether it is harmful to wake a sleepwalker. Some experts say that sleepwalkers should be gently guided back to bed without waking them. Others counter that idea and state that waking a sleepwalker may result in their disorientation, but it is not harmful. Treatment: When does it occur: By Jake Robins
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