Disorders & Treatments

Sleep Walking / Talking

Sleepwalking

Sleepwalking is a behavior disorder that usually originates during deep sleep most often during the first half of the night and results in walking or performing other complex behaviors while asleep. Because a sleepwalker typically remains in deep sleep throughout the episode, he or she may be difficult to awaken and will probably not remember the sleepwalking incident.

Sleepwalking usually involves more than just walking during sleep; it is a series of complex behaviors that are carried out while sleeping, the most obvious of which is walking. It is a common misconception that a sleepwalker should not be awakened. In fact, it can be quite dangerous not to wake a sleepwalker.

What are the signs and symptoms of Sleep Walking?

Symptoms of sleepwalking disorder range from simply sitting up in bed and looking around, to walking around the room or house, to leaving the house and even driving long distances. Sleepwalking is most often initiated during deep sleep but may occur in the lighter sleep stages of non-REM sleep, usually within a few hours of falling asleep, and the sleepwalker may be partially aroused during the episode.

In addition to walking during deep sleep, other symptoms of sleepwalking include: 
  • Sleeptalking
  • Little or no memory of the event
  • Difficulty arousing the sleepwalker during an episode
  • Inappropriate behavior such as urinating in closets (more common in children)
  • Screaming (when sleepwalking occurs in conjunction with sleep terrors)
  • Violent attacks on the person trying to awaken the sleepwalker

 

How is Sleepwalking diagnosed?

You should talk with your physician about the signs and symptoms. They will ask you to keep a sleep journal to show how frequent and when these events happen. If you have a bed partner it may be a good idea to bring them to your appointment as well.

What is the cause of Sleepwalking?

Sleep deprivation, chaotic sleep schedules, fever, stress, magnesium deficiency, and alcohol intoxication can trigger sleepwalking. 

Drugs, for example, sedative/hypnotics (drugs that promote sleep), neuroleptics (drugs used to treat psychosis), minor tranquilizers (drugs that produce a calming effect), stimulants (drugs that increase activity), and antihistamines (drugs used to treat symptoms of allergy) can cause sleepwalking 


Who does Sleepwalking affect?

It is much more common in children than adults and is more likely to occur if a person is sleep deprived. The prevalence of sleepwalking in the general population is estimated to be between 1% and 15%. The onset or persistence of sleepwalking in adulthood is common, and is usually not associated with any significant underlying psychiatric or psychological problems.

The prevalence of sleepwalking is much higher for children, especially those between the ages of three and seven, and occurs more often in children with obstructive sleep apnea. There is also a higher instance of sleepwalking among children who wet the bed. Sleep terrors are a related disorder and both tend to run in families.

What are the treatments of Sleepwalking?

There is no specific treatment for sleepwalking. In many cases simply improving sleep hygiene may eliminate the problem. If you are experiencing symptoms, you should talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist about ways to prevent injury during the episodes and about the possibility of underlying illness. Also, be prepared to discuss with your doctor or pediatrician any factors, such as fatigue, medication, or stress, which may trigger symptoms.

Treatment for sleepwalking in adults may include hypnosis. In fact, there are many cases in which sleepwalking patients have successfully treated their symptoms with hypnosis alone. Also, pharmacological therapies such as sedative-hypnotics or antidepressants have been helpful in reducing the incidence of sleepwalking in some people.

Sleepwalking is common in children and is usually outgrown over time, especially as the amount of deep sleep decreases. If symptoms persist through adolescence, consult your doctor or psychiatrist.

Creating a safe sleep environment is critical to preventing injury during sleepwalking episodes. For example, if your child sleepwalks, don’t let him or her sleep in a bunk bed. Also, remove any sharp or breakable objects from the area near the bed, install gates on stairways, and lock the doors and windows in your home.

Sleep Talking

Sleep talking is described as talking during sleep with different levels of clarity. It can occur by itself or can be associated with other sleep-related disorders such as REM Behavior Disorder, sleepwalking or sleep related eating disorder.

What are the signs and symptoms of Sleep Talking?

Sleep talking can occur during any stage of sleep. The lighter the sleep, the more intelligible the speech: in stages non-REM 1 and 2, people may have entire conversations while in stages non-REM 3, speech may be restricted to moans and gibberish. Symptoms can vary in severity and duration.

How is Sleep Talking diagnosed?

You should talk with your physician about the signs and symptoms. They will ask you to keep a sleep journal to show how frequent and when these events happen. If you have a bed partner it may be a good idea to bring them to your appointment as well.

What is the cause of Sleep Talking?

Sleep talking may be brought on by stress, depression, fever, sleep deprivation, day-time drowsiness, alcohol, and fever. In many instances sleep talking runs in families, although external factors seem to stimulate the behavior. Sleep talking often occurs concurrently with other sleep disorders such as sleep terrors, confusional arousals, obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, and REM sleep behavior disorder. In rare cases, adult-onset frequent sleep-talking is associated with a psychiatric disorder or nocturnal seizures. Sleep talking associated with mental or medical illness occurs more commonly in persons over 25 years of age.

Who does Sleep Talking affect?

Sleep talking is highly prevalent, affecting nearly 50% of all young children and 5% of adults. It equally affects males and females

What are the treatments of Sleep Talking?

In general, no treatment is necessary. However, if sleep talking is severe or persists over a long period of time, talk to your physician or health care provider about the problem. There may be an underlying medical explanation for your sleep talking (e.g. an undiagnosed sleep disorder, or debilitating anxiety or stress).

Certain measures can be taken to reduce the likelihood of a sleep talking episode. Following regular sleep schedule, getting adequate amounts of sleep, and practicing proper sleep hygiene can help reduce the frequency and severity of sleep talking. Also refrain from alcohol, heavy meals, and excessive amounts of stress to reduce sleep talking.

For bed partners and roommates, earplugs or white noise (such as a fan) may help.

Copyright 2010, Sleep Management Institute, All Rights Reserved.  Site Map  | HIPPA Policy