What is sleepwalking?


In our Ghanaian society, we hardly hear of sleepwalking. I am sure this may be your first time coming across it. Yes! People sleepwalk. Sometimes they do not only walk. Some sleepwalkers drive, eat, dress and do others in the process. Mind you, sleepwalking is different from dreaming. Initially, I thought sleepwalking and dreaming were the same thing. Sleepwalking is not limited to age. This is to say all age groups can sleepwalk. Babies excluded.

What then is sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism according to www.MayorClinic.org, “involves getting up and walking around while in a state of sleep.” WWW.nhs.uk also defines sleepwalking as “when someone walks or carries out complex activities while not fully awake. It usually happens during a period of deep sleep. This peaks during the early part of the night, so sleepwalking tends to happen in the first few hours after falling asleep.”

An individual may sit up in bed, and look confused in the early stage of sleepwalking. Sleepwalkers can do a lot of things in the process, like dressing, eating, walking out of the house, driving a car, engaging in sexual intercourse, among others. Mind you, after the said activities, sleepwalkers do not remember whatever thing they did even if you try to help them recall.

Aside from sleepwalking individuals moving around familiar objects in the house, the individual will see you in the process but may not recognise you even though their eyes are opened. Remember that after the activity is carried out, the sleepwalker returns to bed and has no memory of what happened.

Is sleepwalking dangerous?

I think at some point it can. When the individual does certain things like driving while sleepwalking, it can be dangerous. In some cases, the individual just walks around the house and goes back to bed. According to www.nhs.uk, “The best thing to do if you see someone sleepwalking is to make sure they are safe. If undisturbed, they will often go back to bed by reassuring them. Do not shout or startle the person and do not try to physically restrain them unless they are in danger as they may lash out”.

Causes of sleepwalking

According to www.ClevelandClinic.org, the following are some causes of sleepwalking:

  • Hereditary (the condition may run in families)
  • Lack of sleep or extreme fatigue
  • Interrupted sleep or unproductive sleep from disorders like sleep apnea (brief pauses in the child’s breathing pattern during sleep)
  • Illness or fever
  • Certain medications, such as sleeping pills
  • Going to bed with full bladder
  • Noises or touches
  • Changes in sleep environment or different sleep setting (example: a hotel)
  • Migraines
  • Head injuries

In conclusion, a general change in lifestyle habit may be a safe way to help end sleepwalking aside from medication. An individual can create a good bedtime habit and follow it every night as well as stick to a sleep schedule. A sleepwalker who takes drugs and drinks may have to end it to help the situation. Finally, as a partner or roommate, you can help the individual by guiding them back to sleep.

>>>the writer is a student of Journalism at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ). Email [email protected]

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