It’s difficult to consider sleepwalking disorder or somnambulism a serious disease. But for those who have to deal with a person who goes walking about at night, it can be a wearying experience.
Sleepwalking disorder has been listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a sleep disorder, and there are six different criteria that are used to diagnose this disease. Sleepwalking disorder patients sometimes get up and carry on doing a simple task at night and seem to be completely awake while doing these tasks. Their eyes are open and they can navigate around obstructions in their path, but they are actually fast sleep.
There is no particular age at which the disease occurs, but it is seen most often in male children. The condition can cross over into adulthood in about 1-7% of patients. Most adult patients had the condition when they were children.
Diagnosis of Sleepwalking Disorder
Most doctors don’t really advise medication for the condition. Families and individuals consult for treatment only when there is serious danger to the patient’s life. If the episodes of sleepwalking are few and far between, there is no need for treatment. It is also very difficult to isolate simple sleep disorders from sleepwalking disorder. As a result, physicians may recommend polysomnography to get an accurate diagnosis. The polysomnography machine is attached to the patient’s brain and it tracks the brain wave activity, heart rate, breathing, and even pulse to get an accurate diagnosis that forms the basis of sleepwalking disorder treatment. This process is necessary to eliminate the possibility of other disorders such as night terrors, nocturnal seizures, and confusional arousals that have almost the same signs as sleepwalking disorder.
Different approaches to sleepwalking disorder treatment:
- If the patient has no problem and his sleepwalking poses no danger to his life, physicians usually do not prescribe sleepwalking disorder drugs. If daytime stress is causing the condition, then stress management exercises and relaxation techniques are taught.
- Biofeedback is another popular technique that works by soothing psychological issues that might be aggravating the sleepwalking disorder.
- Psychotherapy or sleepwalking disorder medication is prescribed for those few patients who have a psychological background of the disorder. Benzodiazepines such as Estazolam and Clonazepam are the most popular drugs used to soothe the brain and reduce the number of sleepwalking episodes.
- Tricyclic antidepressants like Trazodone also work very effectively in controlling sleepwalking. The medication needs to be reviewed every three weeks by a physician. Once the sleepwalking episodes are under control, the medication can be discontinued. But there is a chance of increase in sleepwalking episodes for a few days after the medication has been stopped.
Sleepwalking disorder is very disruptive and frightening for family members, but it has a very good prognosis. Most patients report that increased stress can aggravate the condition, but relaxation techniques do help. It’s a good idea to ensure that the surrounding area of the patient is safe with locked doors, no dangerous objects, and safety gates to protect the patient during sleepwalking episodes.
© Newsmax. All rights reserved.