More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder

What is sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking is a disorder characterized by walking or other activity while seemingly still asleep.

What are the causes, incidence, and risk factors of sleepwalking?
The normal sleep cycle involves distinct stages from light drowsiness to deep sleep. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is a different type of sleep, in which the eyes move rapidly and vivid dreaming is most common.

During a night, there will be several cycles of non-REM and REM sleep. Sleep walking (somnambulism) most often occurs during deep non-REM sleep (stage 3 or stage 4 sleep) early in the night. It can occur during REM sleep near morning.

In children, the cause is usually unknown but may be related to fatigue, prior sleep loss, or anxiety. In adults, sleepwalking is usually associated with a disorder of the mind but may also be seen with reactions to drugs and alcohol, and medical conditions such as partial complex seizures. In the elderly, sleepwalking may be a symptom of an organic brain syndrome or REM behavior disorders.

The sleepwalking activity may include simply sitting up and appearing awake while actually asleep, getting up and walking around, or complex activities such as moving furniture, going to the bathroom, dressing and undressing, and similar activities. Some people even drive a car while actually asleep. The episode can be very brief (a few seconds or minutes) or can last for 30 minutes or longer.

One common misconception is that a sleep walker should not be awakened. It is not dangerous to awaken a sleep walker, although it is common for the person to be confused or disoriented for a short time on awakening. Another misconception is that a person cannot be injured when sleep walking. Actually, injuries caused by such things as tripping and loss of balance are common for sleep walkers.

Sleep walking occurs at any age, but it occurs most often in children aged 6 to 12. It may occur in younger children, in adults, or in the elderly, and it appears to run in families.

What are symptoms of sleepwalking?
  • eyes open during sleep
  • may have blank facial expression
  • may sit up and appear awake during sleep
  • walking during sleep
  • other detailed activity during sleep, any sort
  • no recall of the event upon awaking
  • confusion, disorientation on awakening
  • sleep talking is incomprehensible and non-purposeful [/list:u]What are the signs and tests for sleepwalking?
    Usually, no further examination and testing is necessary. If sleepwalking is frequent or persistent, examination to rule out other disorders (such as partial complex seizures) may be appropriate. It may also be appropriate to undergo a psychologic evaluation to determine causes such as excessive anxiety or stress, or medical evaluation to rule out other causes.

    What is the treatment for sleepwalking?
    Usually no specific treatment for sleepwalking is needed.

    Safety measures may be necessary to prevent injury. This may include modifying the environment by moving objects such as electrical cords or furniture to reduce tripping and falling. Stairways may need to be blocked off with a gate.

    In some cases, short-acting tranquilizers have been helpful in reducing the incidence of sleepwalking.

    What is the prognosis of sleepwalking?
    Sleepwalking may or may not reduce with age. It usually does not indicate a serious disorder, although it can be a symptom of other disorders.

    What are the complications of sleepwalking?
    A complication is injury sustained during sleep activities.

    Calling your health care provider
    Sleepwalking usually does not require a visit to your health care provider. However, the condition should be discussed with your health care provider if:
    • Sleepwalking is accompanied by other symptoms.
    • Sleepwalking is frequent or persistent.
    • Sleepwalking includes potentially dangerous activities (such as driving). [/list:u]How can I prevent sleepwalking?
      • Avoid the use of alcohol or central nervous system depressants if prone to sleepwalking.
      • Avoid fatigue or insomnia, because this can instigate an episode of sleepwalking.
      • Avoid or minimize stress, anxiety, and conflict, which can worsen the condition. [/list:u]
        Source: National Institutes of Health


Sleep alking/Sleep talking

Hello there, I would like to share my sleeping behaviour because it seems abnormal to me, yet I believe that it is probably something that others experience. It would be nice to find out... What I am going to share I only know from what I have been told from my partner since I don't remember a thing...

I have a very active sleep - this is how he describes it. Basically what happens is that on a regular basis I perform several kinds of actions and I have entire conversations with him.

Usually it starts with me sitting up and starting to discuss. Very often I would ask for water and drink some (he always has a bottle ready for me now). My conversations go from very private things (my inner thoughts) to superficial ones. For example, I sometimes have discussed things I would have never dared to ask while awake: bringing up sensitive subjects - the ones one never asks about for fear of not being accepted (like: do you love me kind of things). Or else I would just chat away. There have been some funny episodes where I asked him to take me to the bathroom and then saying: "Don't worry, you can go. I'll find my way back and if I don't, I'll give you a call". One other time he went to the bathroom and then stayed up for a while to watch some TV. During this time, I phoned him on his cell and started crying because I thought that I'd lost him.

All this is often done together with actions and motion. I get up to get some water from the kitchen (my partner then tells me that he already has the water and I stay). Once I even opened the main door and lit the light in the entrance and went back to bed.

So far, all this seems to be under control. I never did anything dangerous. Even the times when I sleep on my own, I would wake up with a bottle of water next to my bed but I've never either tripped or fallen anywhere.

Well, I just wonder whether this behaviour is within what one expects from a sleep walker/talker or whether I need to see someone about it?
Thanks a lot,


Awww, poor you. It must suck to talk about things you have no control over while you're sleeping. My partner does similar things in his sleep and I find it quite funny actually. He'll sit up in bed and just stare and I'll say something to him and he'll answer me with odd conversations. Once he got up aruptly in bed and started talking about the code that was on the wall, "Don't you see it?" And then he'll just roll over and go back to sleep. One time I had gotten out of bed because I couldn't sleep and he got up after me a few minutes later. He stood in the doorway and said, "I think I'll stay up too," but he was just standing there, staring blankly. I told him to go back to bed and he's like, "Ok," and turns around and goes back to bed. He never remembers these things in the morning and I have a great time telling him about them. *heh*


Sleep walking / Sleep talking

Thank you Mooni,
It does feel good to know that I am not the only one performing while asleep. Yes, it does lead to funny situations and both my partner and I often have a good laugh about what I've been up to at night :)
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