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Sleepwalking Disorder

(Also Known As: Sleepwalking Children, Sleepwalking, Sleep Walk, Sleep Problems, Somnambulism)

(Reviewed by: Paul Peterson, Licensed Therapist)

What is Sleepwalking Disorder?

Sleepwalking Disorder is a condition that is characterized by walking asleep. The activity that a sleepwalker usually does during the episode is not limited to just merely walking in a sleep-like state but it also involves cruising along the stairs, rising from bed and walking around, going out of doors, eating snacks, cleaning, and dressing or undressing. Sleepwalking Disorder is also called somnambulism characterized by repeated episodes of motor activity during sleep. The sleepwalker may appear to be awake with their eyes opened but they are considered to be asleep.1 They often show a blank stare on their face and when they are awakened the person will seldom remember the details of their sleepwalking.

Sleepwalking Disorder is a form of parasomnia or sleep disorder associated with wakefulness while the sleepwalker is asleep or in a sleep-like state. Nocturnal sleepwalking occurs when during each episode the person is unconscious of their actions to the level where memory of sleepwalking can not be recalled; hence Sleepwalking Disorder can occur unnoticed unless someone awakens the sleepwalker. It can be a normal occurrence to find sleepwalking children. At some point, most children will typically outgrow their sleepwalking episodes. Somnambulism in adults however can be chronic and may last for many years. The sleepwalking episode may be brief, only seconds or few minutes, but some may last as long as 30 minutes or more. The average duration of an episode is between 5 to 15 minutes.

Sleepwalking Disorder may involve the following common activities: 2

  • Bathing
  • Urinating
  • Dressing
  • Driving cars
  • Talking
  • Whistling
  • Committing murder
  • Dancing
  • Engagement in sexual intercourse
  • Walking up and down the stairs
  • Cleaning the house
  • Eating

Injuries may occur while sleepwalking. Most common are falling from stairs, tripping or loss of balance, stumbling on furniture and going through windows. Sleepwalking in children may occur from age 6 to 12 and it is a condition that is fairly common in this age group. Sleepwalking Disorder in children is usually not influenced by psychological factors but it indicates a personality disturbance in adults.3

Could You Have Sleepwalking Disorder?

Sleepwalking Disorder Topics

Related Conditions

Narcolepsy – Dyssomnia, Chronic Sleep Disorder, Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, Insomnia
Nightmare Disorder – Parasomnia Disorder, Temporary Inability to Regain Consciousness, Moaning, Screaming, Gasping
Parasomnia NOS – Abnormal Sleep Behavior Involving Movements, Emotions and Perceptions, Sleep Arousal, Sleepwalking, Night Terrors
Sleep Terror Disorder – Night Terror, Parasomnia, Extreme Terror, Gasping, Moaning