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Definition  

Sleepwalking is a type of sleep disorder. A person who is sleepwalking may walk around or do other complex behaviors while still asleep. It may be as simple as sitting up in bed or as complex as leaving the house and going for a drive.

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Causes  

It is not clear exactly what causes sleepwalking. Some people are more likely to sleepwalk. The sleepwalking may be triggered by:

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Hyperthyroidism  
hyperthyroid

Hyperthyroidism is an abnormal condition of the thyroid. It can affect many of the body's systems, including glands in the brain that can interfere with proper sleep.

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Risk Factors  

Factors that may increase your risk of sleepwalking include:

  • Family history of sleepwalking
  • Being a child—most common in preschool to pre-adolescence
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Symptoms  

Along with walking during sleep, other symptoms can include:

  • Sitting up in bed and repeating certain movements such as rubbing eyes or fumbling with clothes
  • Talking in your sleep
  • Difficulty arousing during a sleepwalking episode
  • Doing inappropriate behavior during a sleepwalking episode such as urinating in closets
  • Becoming violent when a person tries to wake you
  • Not remembering the event
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Diagnosis  

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will be asked about your:

  • Family history
  • Fatigue
  • Medication
  • Underlying illness or stress

Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist. You may need to have a sleep study done in a medical clinic.

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Treatment  

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Strategies to Prevent Injury  

Your doctor will help you prevent injury during sleepwalking by recommending that you:

  • Remove dangerous objects from your room
  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked

Hypnosis  

Some cases of sleepwalking can be treated with hypnosis.

Awakening  

Your doctor will ask you to keep track of what time of night the sleepwalking tends to occur. You then schedule a wake up just before that time. This may help stop the sleepwalking.

Medications  

Medications that may help reduce sleepwalking include:

  • Sedative-hypnotics
  • Antidepressants
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Prevention  

To help reduce the chances of sleepwalking, take the following steps:

  • Increase the amount of time scheduled for sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and certain medications that may trigger sleepwalking.
  • Have a regular bedtime routine.