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Characteristics of Somnambulism
Somnambulism in layman’s terms is known as sleepwalking. It is not as simple as walking while sleeping as most people understand this condition to be though (Wikipedia). A state categorized under parasomnias, disorders that intrude into the sleep process, the issue lies in the disturbance and its causes and not on the impact of this disorder on the person’s sleeping or waking hours. In particular, a person having such a disorder induce him to engage in activities that are normally done during his waking hours while sleeping or in the sleeplike state. Actions would range from just shifting from his sleeping position to moving around and performing the daily waking motions of his life like cleaning, walking, and others. What is disturbing here is the fact that there is complete amnesia about their episodes unless the subject would be awakened during the episode and would be made to realize what had just happened. So, unless somebody sees them doing it, nobody would be aware of the somnambulist’s condition (Wikipedia). Contrary to certain views about this disorder, somnambulism has no direct association with dreaming, for this condition takes place only during stage IV of one’s sleep, where no rapid eye movement (REM) occurs anymore. And unlike those portrayed in different movies, sleepwalkers have wide-opened eyes during their sessions, although these are glazed over. When people notice them and talk to them, coherent answers might not be given (Reid, 417).
Probable Causes of the Disorder
As various studies discussed, somnambulism is usually experienced by people who are going through highly stressful periods, extreme levels of anxiety, and other psychological issues. Although there are exceptions as well to these observations since there are cases of perfectly fine people going through such phase. The disorder is common as well to people with such a family history. Or it could be because of both psychological and genetic factors. People of any age could be affected by this sleeping disorder although it’s more prevalent among children. One to six percent of children, mostly 4-8 years old experienced this and more than 15% had at least one episode. Behaviors may be as simple as just waking up in the middle of the night and sitting up in bed to more serious ones like walking around. They’re difficult to rouse and when they do wake up, they would look confused (Mindell, 154). Adults who go through this state normally had a history of sleepwalking and night terrors, and are currently going through a hard phase in their lives (Bel, et al, 1239).
Although this does not mean that it’s supposed to be taken lightly, parents as well as other people close to the sufferers are often reassured that there is nothing to be scared of. Children can mature out of this and as for adults, as soon as they’ve taken care of their anxieties, the disorder could just go away on its own. Still, sleepwalkers can harm themselves like fall over the stairs or using dangerous tools during their episodes. However, before alarm bells rang in your head, it should be remembered that the things being performed by sleepwalkers are the things they just usually do when awake. Unfortunately, anything somnambulists see or hear may trigger another behavior, so something said by another person or even just the television could induce that person to act it out, only of course if they are words the subject regularly hears. They may also do things that could embarrass themselves like urinate in full view of other people or worse.
Things, that could be done
Thing is, the best way to help the person going through this would be to tackle the reasons why such a condition was triggered in the first place. Especially for adults, becoming aware of what’s bothering them and taking action, they could sleep peacefully without further episodes anymore. Children probably have simple reasons why they are feeling agitated, so it would be best to listen to them. In the meantime, parents could just try their best to make sure that they won’t do things that would hurt themselves and safe-proof the areas where the sufferers might end up going.
Sleepwalking. 2007. The Free Encyclopedia. Web.
Mindell, Jodi A. “Sleep Disorders in Children.” Journal of Counseling Psychology. 2007. Web.
Bel, J.A. et al. “Sleepwalking as a symptom of Bulimia”. British Medical Journal. 293 (1986). 2007. Web.
Reid, William H. “Important Advances in Clinical Medicine.” Epitomes of Progress-Psychiatry. 2007. Web.