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Tres Reyes Island view of the Marinduque Mainland

Friday, August 5, 2011

Have You Heard of Somnambulism?

Image from healthcentral.com

When I was growing up in the Philippines, two of my first cousins were also living with us. They were about 3 and 5 years older than me. Our house had only three bedrooms, so all of us kids were sleeping in the same room. There were only two beds in the room and their were 4 of us. The two beds were occupied by me and my younger brother and my two older cousins sleep on a mattress on the floor between the two beds. One night I was awaken when one of my cousins started to walk around. I opened my eyes and I saw he was also asleep, but he continued to walk out of the door and went outside. I was scared so I went to the other room where my nanny and our other helpers sleep. I woke them up and told them that Rudy was outside the house and walking. This was my first experience of somnambulism. So what is sleep walking? Is it a sickness or disorder? Please continue reading...

Sleepwalking disorder, also called somnambulism, is characterized by repeating episodes of motor activity during sleep such as sitting up in bed, rising, and walking around, among others. The person appears to be awake because their eyes are usually open and they can maneuver around objects, but is considered asleep.

Sleepwalking disorder is one of several sleep disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,often called DSM-IV-TR, produced by the American Psychiatric Association and used by most mental health professionals in North America and Europe to diagnose mental disorders.

Sleepwalking episodes usually occur during the first third of the night during the deepest phase of sleep. The episodes can last anywhere from a few minutes up to one hour, with five to 15 minutes being average. Sleepwalkers appear to be awake but are typically unresponsive to individuals who attempt to communicate with them. Persons who sleepwalk typically have no memory or awareness of their actions or movement upon waking.

There appears to be a genetic component for individuals who sleepwalk. The condition is 10 times more likely to occur in close relatives of known sleepwalkers than in the general public. These families also tend to be deep sleepers.

Sleepwalking may also be triggered by fever, which directly affects the nervous system, general illness, alcohol use, sleep deprivation, and emotional stress . Hormonal changes that occur during adolescence, menstruation, and pregnancy can be also be triggers for sleepwalking. Sleepwalking episodes are more likely during times of physiological or psychological stress.

Certain classes of medication have also been shown to precipitate sleepwalking episodes in some individuals. These include: Anti-anxiety or sleep-inducing drugs, anti seizure medications, stimulants, antihistamines, and anti-arrhythmic heart drugs.

Symptoms
•Repeated episodes of rising from bed during sleep: These episodes may include sitting up in bed, looking around, and walking, and usually occur during the first third of the night.

•Is unresponsive to attempts at communication: During sleepwalking, the person typically has eyes open, dilated pupils, a blank stare, and does not respond to another's attempts at communication. Affected persons typically are only awakened with great difficulty.

•No recollection of the sleepwalking incident: Upon waking, the person typically has no memory of the sleepwalking events. If the individual does awaken from the sleepwalking episode, they may have a vague memory of the incident. Often, sleepwalkers will return to bed, or fall asleep in another place with no recall as to how they got there.

•No impairment of mental activity upon waking: If an individual awakens during a sleepwalking episode, there may be a short period of confusion or disorientation, but there is no impairment of mental activity or behavior.

•Causes significant distress to life situations: Sleepwalking causes significant disruption of social and occupational situations, or affects other abilities to function.

•Not due to substance use or abuse: Sleepwalking disorder is not diagnosed if the cause is related to drug abuse, medication, or a general medical condition.

Sleepwalking disorder can be difficult to distinguish from sleep terror disorder. In both cases, the individual has motor movement, is difficult to awaken, and does not remember the incident. The primary difference is that sleep terror disorder typically has an initial scream and signs of intense fear and panic associated with the other behaviors.

Do you know of someone who is a sleep walker? Have you heard of the Kenneth Park Case in Canada? In 1987 he murdered his mother-in-law while sleep walking. He was acquitted of the murder because the judge said he was not conscious of what he did. He claimed he did not remember the incident. There are other published news of sleep walkers killing their relatives while sleep walking here in US. Thus sleep walking could be dangerous if not treated with medications or drugs.

Reference: www.minddisorder.com

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