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Definition - What does sleepwalking mean?

Sleepwalking is a form of parasomnia, a sleep disturbance characteristic of unconscious arousals during the deep sleep phase (N3) of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, prompting episodes of involuntary walking or other motor activity (i.e., sitting up in bed), a flat affect (no expression), unresponsiveness, and no memory of events following the experience. While sleepwalking is rare among adults, its frequency and duration can serve as an index for pointing to several underlying factors including age, genetics, ongoing stress, and the existence of sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

SureHire explains sleepwalking

Brief occurrences of sleepwalking generally recede, but nocturnal circumstances where the individual is prone to sustaining an injury, exhibiting violent behavior towards a bed partner, or incurring excessive daytime sleepiness warrants medical intervention. For these reasons, individuals are candidates for sleepwalking disorder following a select criteria where regular activities and job performance begin to decline. Moreover, diagnosing sleepwalking is difficult given its symptoms that parallel sleep terror disorder, compounded by the patient’s inability to recall events unless a history of sleepwalking since childhood exists backed by immediate observation from a bed partner.

With the apparent link between sleepwalking and sleep disorders, polysomnography is a sleep study test that measures the biorhythms, calculating a patient’s physiological variables including brainwave activity, heart rate, and respiration, using the biofeedback to determine how to approach proper treatment. Behavioral and relaxation techniques including psychotherapy and hypnosis can potentially modulate the emotional stress underpinning persistent bouts of sleepwalking. For most people sleepwalking passes after childhood or adolescence, but for other individuals, it presents an epiphenomenon to different issues including alcohol use, prescription medicine, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and restless legs syndrome (RLS).

Sleepwalking is not an inherent threat to an individual, but given the overlap of many different behavioral, physiological, and psychological culprits relating either to an addiction, a hormonal imbalance, or persistent stress, a diagnosis is critical. For employers, chronic fatigue is often a concomitant factor in a stressful environment that can hinder cognitive ability, in turn, causing a downturn in productivity.

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