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The Truth About Sleepwalking

So after reading Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and seeing Seth Barrish’s Sleepwalk With Me, you might think you have a pretty good idea about sleepwalking. In typical Hollywood style, sleepwalking is usually shown as some demonic spirit which enters another?s body or a comical medical condition that is as harmful as a paper cut. However this cannot be farther from the truth.
Sleepwalking or somnambulism is a serious medical condition that affects 1-17% of the American population. Children between the ages of 11 to 15 are more likely to develop the disorder. The onset of somnambulism decreases with age.

The disorder is characterized by a sleeper waking up from slow wave or deep sleep, at which time the individual is in low consciousness. But what is strange is that even though they do not seem conscious, they are able to perform activities which are similar to a conscious person. The complexity of the activity varies from one sleepwalker to another. These behaviors can be as simple as sitting up in bed, walking back and forth in the room, and even walking to the bathroom. Some behaviors are more complex such as cooking dinner, texting a friend, and taking a bath. Rarely, are severe forms of sleepwalking-related incidents reported which involve homicide, murder and even having sexual intercourse.

A typical sleepwalking episode can last for as little as thirty seconds up to thirty minutes. When a sleepwalker awakens from their episode, they usually have very little recollection about what they did while they were sleepwalking. During a sleepwalking episode, the individual?s eyes are open wide, and appear glazed.

Sleepwalking is always sensationalized and exaggerated by the media. For instance, there was a report from Australia in 2004, from doctors who claimed to completely cure a sleepwalking woman who engaged in sexual intercourse with strangers.

The prevailing therapy for treating somnambulism is through drugs. Doctors usually prescribe low doses tricyclic antidepressants and benzodiazepines. Medical practitioners also recommend avoiding sleep deprivation.

Now the burning question, which always creeps up on talk shows, whenever they talk about sleepwalking is, whether it is harmful to wake a sleepwalker during an episode. The viewpoints are mixed with this question. Some experts recommend that a sleepwalker should be gently guided back to bed, whereas others state that waking a sleepwalker only puts them in a temporary state of disorientation.

Since somnambulism is such a peculiar disorder, it is no wonder that it makes for good content in books, movies, plays, and even art.

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