Sonmambulism is commonly known as sleep walking, and although there have been plenty of comical portrayals of this sleep disorder this is a rare disorder that can greatly affect people negatively. People who walk in their sleep risk injury to themselves and the people around them, and have sometimes been known to sustain serious injuries during an episode of sleep walking. There can be a variety of reasons why a person walks while sleeping, and sometimes this sleep disorder can coexist with another sleep disorder.
Sleep walking is somewhat common in children, but as people age this sleep disorder becomes more uncommon. Most kids outgrow the tendency to walk in their sleep, but for a few people this can be an ongoing issue. Sleep walking may suddenly appear in adults during times of great stress and unrest, but there can be other reasons for the episodes.
Sleep walking varies in its details and instances. For many people, sleep walking is merely an episode of stumbling around the house and eventually returning to bed. In less common instances, sleep walking can involve going through actual motions such as preparing a meal or sifting through the mail. These dreamlike states usually involve the person conducting some action that is common to daytime hours, but is completely incongruous for sleeping hours. The person going through these actions is not actually awake, but instead is going through familiar motions in a dreamlike state.
Sleep walking can have a darker side too. Sleepwalkers have been reported to display aggressive behavior, and it is commonly advised that people who are sleepwalking should not be confronted or forced to wake up because they may become aggressive. This aggressive or violent behavior may be completely contrary to the person’s normal demeanor. Some people accused of sexual crimes have used the defense that they were actually sleep walking through the entire episode and have little or no recollection of the events whatsoever. Additionally, in some very rare instances sleep walkers might actually get behind the wheel of a car and drive somewhere, putting everyone in danger because of the obvious impairment while driving.
Adults who experience episodes of sleep walking should make an appointment with a doctor to rule out any medical or psychological reasons for the disorder. Doctors will also make sure that there is not a collection of sleep disorders occurring making the sleep walking more likely. In some cases, sleep walking is just one issue within a cluster of sleep disorders. Once the other sleep disorders are treated, the sleepwalking may go away completely. Environmental factors may affect sleepwalking too because the presence of loud noises and bright lights may put the person in a somewhat aroused state of alertness, yet not fully awake. The resulting situation is an episode of sleep walking.
Getting sufficient sleep in a quiet, dark environment may be enough to stop the sleepwalking episodes, but if this is not enough to stop the sleepwalking then other steps may need to be taken under the advice of a doctor or sleep specialist.