Monday, March 7, 2011

Sleepwalking a Parasomnia is a Sleep Disorder

Sleepwalking a parasomnia is a sleep disorder also known as somnambulism. A sleepwalker will get out of bed during the slow wave sleep stage 4 or NREM in a state of low consciousness and perform activities they usually carry out when fully awake. According to sleep specialists, sleepwalkers may fall asleep easy but may act out these activities that include sitting up in bed, walking, eating and may involve dangerous actions like driving, cooking, grabbing sharp objects, eating nonfoods and even fall to their death between the hours of 11pm and 1am. A parasomnia, like confusional arousals, is an unwanted movement or physical episode that happens during sleep or just upon awakening. Sleepwalkers tend to be children, ages of 8-12 that are known to eventually outgrow this disorder. It does run in families and if a parent experiences a parasomnia then their children are 10 times more likely to suffer from a similar one.

[caption id="attachment_946" align="alignright" width="344" caption="Sleepwalking a Parasomnia is a Sleep Disorder - NREM Stage 4"][/caption]

Research has shown to disagree with the parasomnia classification and according to MedicineNet they define sleepwalking as an automatism. An automatism is an unconscious movement that may resemble simple repetitive tics or may be a complex sequence of natural-looking movements. The sleepwalker will not remember what he is doing or how he is doing it. Repetitive actions include chewing, lip-smacking, pulling on clothes or wandering around in a stupor. In the case of law, an individual may be accused of non-insane automatism or insane automatism. Non-insane automatism is a defense for temporary insanity or involuntary conduct resulting in an acquittal. Insane automatism is a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. Some actions that take place during sleepwalking could be classified as automatisms.

For those that reach adulthood and do not outgrow this disorder, many misconceptions indicate that is psychological even though sleepwalking can be a symptom of a mental illness. Many adult sleepwalkers find it hard to deal with aggression during the day in which they act out while sleepwalking. These episodes can be very aggressive and dangerous to the sleepwalker and other family members. In these rare cases medications like benzodiazepine, Clonazepam may be prescribed.

Other factors that trigger an episode may include; sleep deprivation, chaotic sleep schedules, stress/anxiety, intoxication, medications like sedatives/hypnotics, caffeine, fever and even a noisy sleep environment. Medical conditions can also cause sleepwalking such as; obstructive sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, seizure disorder, abnormal heart rhythms, acid reflux, panic attacks and asthma.

[caption id="attachment_949" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Sleepwalking a Parasomnia is a Sleep Disorder - Lock the doors"][/caption]

When treating a sleepwalker it is important to eliminate the underlying cause which may include changing medication, establishing a sleep routine and finding a remedy for a medical condition. Sleepwalker’s safety will be the number one priority during this discovery period. It is advised that they should sleep on the ground floor, remove hazardous objects and lock doors and windows. When a person is sleepwalking it is best to lead them back to bed then wake them. Waking them is not only hard to do but will upset them. Discussing their sleepwalking episode will only cause more anxiety which may lead to insomnia.

One suggested form of treatment is anticipatory awakenings that consist of waking the sleepwalker 15-20 minutes before their usual time that an episode occurs and keeping them awake for the duration. Relaxation techniques and mental imagery have also helped eliminate sleepwalking episodes when done by an experienced therapist or hypnotist. Sleepwalking is not usually a serious sleep disorder and the condition can often be treated effectively. The content provided in Sleepwalking a Parasomnia is a Sleep Disorder is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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