What is It?
Night walking or sleep walking is formally known as somnambulism. It is the unconscious performance of complex motor activities, such as walking, while asleep. Walking is the most common form of its activity, hence the name. However there is a range of activities that can fall under night walking. It can be sitting, lurking over the fridge, and driving.
These are the possible events that can happen during night walking:
- Sitting up erect in bed
- Having a glassy-eyed expression
- Opening doors and windows
- Doing regular household activities
- Voiding in the closet
- Walking in the streets
- Becoming violent, in rare cases
How Prevalent it is?
In every 100 people, at least one is affected with night walking. Without known underlying psychological association, it may have its onset during adulthood and persist thereon. However the highest prevalence is among children, three to eight years old. It can be observed more frequently among kids who are bedwetters and having trouble with sleeping, or apnea.
How was it Discovered?
Very long ago, night walking was just a mystery that has given creeps to some, until it was studied and diagnosed by a German parapsychologist – Baron Reichenbach. Initially, it was associated with actors who were just dreaming their role for a movie or play. It then progressed to become repressed sentiments acted out by individuals who have been physically and psychologically abused domestically. Other version tells that these are fantasies against stern superiors such as officers, managers, supervisors and even fathers.
It was recently learned that night walking is a form of irregularity in one of the phases of sleep, the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) credited to the BEAM and electroencephalogram technologies that helps monitor brain waves and signals during the phenomenon.
What are its Precipitating Factors?
The risk of having night walking episodes is higher when the following conditions occur to the night walker.
- Lacking sleep
- Having headaches or migraines
- Experiencing pre-menstrual syndrome
- Feeling stressed physically or emotionally
- Being in an unfamiliar place, such as travel or vacation
- Drinking alcohols
- Presence of disturbing noise or light
- Taking some medications
How is it Managed?
Night walkers can be managed with medications in low doses such as anti-depressants and benzodiazepines. There are several conventional methods in managing night walking. Because people who are prone to night walk must not be deprived of sleep, it is advised to encourage sleep hygiene. These are activities that help individuals fall asleep easily such as bedtime bath, warm milk, and soft music.
Clinicians recommend putting away harmful home items from the reach of the person such as scissors, knife, and the likes for the safety of the person and the members of the household. It is also a good idea to lock doors, windows and car garages in order to avoid unfortunate incidences of leaving the house and driving around unconsciously. Others place bells or alarms in the doors and windows that could indicate that someone leaving the house.
According to some beliefs, the person must not be awakened when night walking episodes occur, because the disorientation of the night walker has potential threat to the other person who tries to wake him. It was suggested to guide him gently back to the bed. Experts suggest otherwise.
What are the results?
The very obvious complication of night walking is the injury sustained during the episodes. This is specifically true when the home is not secured such as suggested above. Another result would be disturbance of the family sometimes resulting to ridicule and scorn.
What is its prognosis?
Even though night walkers are common among younger ones, the incidences may or may not decline upon aging. There is no serious medical indication associated with night walking.