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Symptoms of Sleepwalking

By Paul Rothbart

Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, has often been depicted in cartoons in a humorous way. People wander all over the city while asleep and somehow make it back home and safe in their beds. Sleepwalking is not a laughing matter and can be harmful to those who experience it. It often only occurs occasionally and the person affected may not realize it's happening. If they live alone or don't awaken anyone while sleepwalking, it may go unwitnessed. As it should be treated, it's important to know the symptoms of sleepwalking. 

Night Terrors

Sleepwalking is often accompanied by night terrors. These are bouts of intense fear that occur during sleep. The person will scream out in terror and flail around. Unlike a nightmare, where the person usually awakens, a sufferer of night terrors remains asleep. They generally last from a few seconds to a few minutes but linger beyond that. Night terrors mostly affect children but some adults are subject to them as well.

Getting Up

Sleepwalking got its name from its most common symptom, the person getting out of bed and moving around while sound asleep. The length of these episodes varies but the average is about 10 minutes. Sleepwalkers have been known to engage in many activities such as running, household chores, and moving furniture. Some have even attempted to drive and there have been acts of violence. Often the sleepwalker will return to bed on their own.

Difficulty Waking Up

Sleepwalking and night terrors occur during the non-REM or third stage of sleep. It can be difficult to awaken a person sleepwalking as this is a deep sleep level. When the sleepwalker is engaged in a specific activity, they can be nearly impossible to awaken. This is a sure sign of a sleepwalking problem. 

Fatigue During the Day

Daytime fatigue is a common symptom of sleepwalking. The affected person may have trouble focusing and completing tasks and may find it necessary to nap. It may be that sleepwalking causes drowsiness or that the fatigue is part of an underlying problem that is causing the sleepwalking. The individual should see a doctor for an examination and diagnosis. Sleepwalkers will also sometimes experience insomnia.


If a person wakes up in the midst of a sleepwalking episode, they are often confused and disoriented. They may not know where they are and certainly don't remember how they got there. The confusion may last for several minutes especially if the sleepwalker is in an unfamiliar place.

Sleepwalking can be potentially dangerous and the lack of quality sleep can be harmful to health. If you demonstrate these symptoms and think you may be sleepwalking, see your primary care physician. If a loved one is sleepwalking, advise them to seek help.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Clearwater, Fla.

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