Have you ever thought of reaching places in your sleep? No, we don’t mean in dreams, we are talking about in real, literary. Sometimes people even when asleep walk or perform other tasks. This unusual complex behaviour is called Somnambulism or sleepwalking. The person remains in deep sleep throughout the episode and doesn’t really remember much of it the next morning. The sleepwalker does a range of activities like sitting on the bed, walking around, leaving the house or some dangerous activities like falling off the windows or even attacking someone in sleep. The earliest case recorded was in 1845 when Albert Tirrell of Boston committed murders in his sleepwalking.
As funny as it may sound it can be fatal too. As for Marie Lord, it was nothing less than a nightmare to have sleepwalked from her home all the way into the sea only to be woken up by the taste of salt in her mouth. When stuck she cried for help and luckily, a man working nearby saved her life. Not only she lives in the trauma of that night but is also afraid that if it was to happen again she may not be lucky like last time.
For some, it may become an embarrassment as no one would like to be seen sleepwalking naked on the streets. In a recent case, a hotel guest in Manchester was rescued by cops after sleepwalking the streets with no clothes on.
People have been reported to load up on snacks, fall in pits, attack strangers and do many other strange activities in sleepwalking. If not treated; Somnambulism can unsettle the patient’s life completely.
There is an element of mystery always attached to the concept of sleepwalking. Mostly in horror films, the ghost is shown do be walking with eyes open, much like sleepwalking. But it is a serious disorder that alters the consciousness of the mind where the brain does not recall the episodes. Although the eyes are open sometimes during sleepwalking but still nothing is recorded in the mind. So it is important to understand what causes this.
Sleepwalking happens when a person is going from the deep stage of sleep to a lighter stage or into awake state. The main causes include:
- Sleep deprivation or uneven sleep schedule
- Alcohol/Drugs or sedatives
Some medical conditions are also linked with sleepwalking like Heart problems, fever, Restless leg syndrome or any other psychotic disorder. Besides these, it can be genetic also. Sleepwalking was first diagnosed in the 19th century by a German chemist and parapsychologist Baron Karl Ludwig von Reichenbach before that it was not taken into serious account and was believed to be a dream activity.
If we look at India, the problem of sleepwalking is more prominent in the younger population. Sleepwalking disorders have been seen in early childhood till around adolescence with a steady decline thereafter. Only about 5-8% of the adult population suffers from sleepwalking disorders in India.
If sleepwalking is due to any other medical condition that it is important to get treatment for that. Other than that it is also advised for such patients to:
- Relax and meditate.
- Get proper sleep
- Take less stress and alcohol
- Avoid taking any kind of stimulation before bedtime
- Certain medication also helps to control the symptoms
It is also necessary for such patients to take measures in and around the house so that the possibility of injury is less during sleepwalking. With proper care, we can help such patients who are battling the menace of sleepwalking.