According to the neurology journal Brain, 2.5 percent of the general population is affected by sleepwalking. If you are one of these people or have a loved one who sleepwalks, you know how scary it can be. For the more chronic sufferers, serious injuries are common.
For the safety of people with this condition, I have created this guide on how to stop sleepwalking in adults.
What Is Sleepwalking?
Also referred to as somnambulism, sleepwalking involves getting out of bed and walking around while in a state of sleep. Adults are less likely to sleepwalk than children, who typically outgrow it in their teen years.
Isolated incidents of sleepwalking do not usually require treatment or signal any serious problems. On the other hand, there may be an underlying sleep disorder if the sleepwalking is recurrent.
There is a high chance that sleepwalking will be coexisting or confused with mental health conditions in adults. Of course, if it appears someone in your household is sleepwalking, whether they actually are or not, you need to protect them from getting injured.
How to Prevent Sleepwalking
Currently, medical science has not found a way to completely prevent sleepwalking. Yet, you can minimize one’s risks of having an accident by taking various steps.
One way to reduce the chance of sleepwalking is to get an adequate amount of sleep. Another tip is to remove stress inducing activities in your life and replace them with relaxation exercises or meditation.
Finally, prior to bedtime, you should avoid any type of visual or auditory stimulation. This will give your mind time to wind down before you try to sleep.
How Do You Protect Yourself when Sleepwalking?
If and when you do sleepwalk, there are several things you can do to protect yourself from harm. For instance, use heavy draperies to cover your glass windows. This will keep you from trying to bust through them and hurting yourself if you do.
Your sleeping area should be safe and free of sharp or other harmful objects. Lock your windows and doors to keep yourself contained. Also, if at all possible, sleep in a bedroom that is on the ground floor to reduce the risk of falling down stairs or out of upper-level windows.
Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong with waking a sleepwalking person as long as they are in a safe place. Therefore, one smart idea is to place a bell or alarm on your bedroom door.
In more extreme cases, it may be necessary for you to sleep in a sleeping bag that is zipped up to your neck and to wear oven mitts. This may sound drastic, but it has proven to be effective in keeping dangerous sleepwalkers from hurting themselves.
What Medical Treatments Are There for Sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking could be caused by a number of underlying medical conditions, like periodic leg movements, gastroesophageal reflux, restless legs syndrome, seizures, and obstructive sleep apnea. Once these underlying conditions are treated, the sleepwalking episodes should stop.
If sleepwalking causes excessive daytime sleepiness or significant family disruption, when other treatment alternatives have not worked, and if the sleepwalker is at risk of injury, medications may be required.
Klonopin, Trazodone (also known as Desyrel), and ProSom are some of the medications that may be useful. After several weeks free from sleepwalking, the drugs can generally be discontinued.
What if Medical Treatment Is not an Option?
For the long-term treatment of people with sleepwalking disorders, mental imagery, anticipatory awakenings, and relaxation techniques are preferred.
Anticipatory awakenings work by waking the person about fifteen to twenty minutes prior to the usual time that they sleepwalk. You then keep them awake throughout the time that the episode typically occurs.
Mental imagery and relaxation techniques are most effective when done with the assistance of a professional hypnotist or behavioral therapist.
Overall, sleepwalking is not generally a serious disorder even though it may seem frightening and disruptive in the short term.
This article should give you some ideas on how to stop sleepwalking. In adults, this condition should dissipate over time. If you do continue to have troubles that threaten your safety, I strongly recommend seeking the help of a professional.