Risks of Adult Sleep Walking Detailed


SAUSALITO, CA (ASRN.ORG) -- A new study is warning that sleepwalking could have serious impact on an adult’s health and quality of life, potentially leading to sleep disruption, fatigue, psychological distress, and other ailments.

Principal investigator Yves Dauvilliers, MD, PhD – a professor of physiology and neurology and director of the sleep lab at Gui-de-Chauliac Hospital in Montpellier, France – and colleagues showed that 58 percent of the sleepwalkers that they studied had a confirmed history of violent sleep-related behavior.

Of those, 17 percent had experienced one or more episodes in which they had either injured themselves or their bed partner to the point which they had required medical care. Among the injuries suffered during those incidents were bruises, bone fractures, nose bleeds and even one case of severe head trauma that resulted following an incident in which a sleepwalker leapt from a third-floor window, the researchers said.

“We found a higher frequency of daytime sleepiness, fatigue, insomnia, depressive and anxiety symptoms and altered quality of life in patients with sleepwalking compared to the control group,” Dauvilliers said Thursday in a statement.

“What would usually be considered a benign condition, adult sleepwalking is a potentially serious condition and the consequences of sleepwalking episodes should not be ignored,” he added.

Writing in the March issue of the journal Sleep, Dauvilliers and his colleagues conducted a case-controlled study of 100 adult patients who had been diagnosed with primary sleepwalking between June 2007 and January 2011.

Subjects who took part in the study were between 18 and 58 years of age with a median age of 30, the researchers said. One hundred healthy control subjects were also utilized for the research.

Factors that triggered increases in both the frequency and severity of sleepwalking episodes were observed in nearly six out of every 10 study participants, according to the study.

Among the factors believed to be responsible for those changes were stressful events, powerful positive emotions, intense physical activity late in the day, and sleep deprivation. Each of those factors is known to promote increased deep or slow wave sleep (SWS) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep instability, Dauvilliers’ team reports.

“Sleepwalking is an underdiagnosed condition that may be clearly associated with daytime consequences and mood disturbances leading to a major impact on quality of life,” said Dauvilliers. “The burden of sleepwalking in adults needs to be highlighted and emphasized.”


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