Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, comes from Latin words “somnus” and “ambulare” which mean “sleep” and “walk”. Somnambulism is a condition when people fulfill some actions while being asleep. Person’s behavior during this looks like conscious and adequate, however, in reality a person acts unconsciously, according to his/her dream at the moment. In the morning a person does not remember anything.
The ordinary picture of somnambulism looks like this: a person stands up from his/her bed, eyes are opened, and begins to fulfill some coordinate movements. The look of such people is stiff and blank, pupils are narrowed. Usually fits of somnambulism last for no more than 30 minutes per night. After fulfilling some actions a person does not wake up, on the contrary, he/she goes back to bed and continues to sleep.
As a rule, sleepwalking is more characteristic for children and it disappears after pubertal period. However, in some cases symptoms stay up to adulthood, or even appear for the first time in teenage or adult age. Psychological tests show that such people have active, active-defensive, or aggressive-offensive type of reaction. One can assume that this type of everyday behavior does not remove stress and emotional tension fully, so it becomes apparent at night during fits of sleepwalking.
According to scientists, around 2% of all people in the world suffer from sleepwalking. Fits usually appear when a person wakes up from the phase of deep sleep (during this period person’s brain stays in borderline state).
Myths about Somnambulism
Earlier, sleepwalking was considered a symptom of mental illness. It is not true, somnambulism is not connected with any mental disorders. People also say that it is dangerous to wake up sleepwalkers, because they can harm themselves. Actually, it’s quite hard to awaken a sleepwalker, and you should better not do that, just try to return a person back to his/her bed.
It is known that around 25% of sleepwalkers harm themselves during their night walks. Quite often they may confuse windows with doors, so there were cases when people fell out of windows.
Sleepwalkers are said to be able to drive a car and even a plain. Well, a sleepwalker can sit into the car and even start moving, however, he/she wouldn’t get far: reflexes are impeded, so a sleepwalker would get into the accident very soon.
There are a lot of myths about supernatural dexterity of sleepwalkers. However, not all such stories correspond to facts. For example, one young British during his night walk fell out of the window. His muscles were so relaxed that he hadn’t receive any serious injuries. However, 25-year old Australian was not so lucky: during the fit of somnambulism she started to walk down the non-existent ladder. As a result – a lot of serious fractures.
Modern science describes cases when people have sex… while sleeping. As in case with ordinary somnambulism, people do not remember anything in the morning.
This phenomenon isn’t studied well. Scientists think that the reason may be genes, or the disease may be stimulated by alcohol and stresses. Serious and full investigations are hardly possible, because people talk about problems of this kind quite unwillingly. By the way, there are several kinds of sexual somnambulism: one form is phantom, when a person just imagines sex, and the other form is unconscious sexual contact.
Reason of Somnambulism
American geneticists detected the area of 20th chromosome which is responsible for this disorder. This investigation proved that sleepwalking is hereditary problem. If both parents were inclined to sleepwalking in childhood, there is a big probability that a child will walk in sleep as well.
Stories about Sleepwalkers
Lee Hadwin is a British artist who creates his pictures during sleep. In the morning he doesn’t remember anything and what is even more interesting – he shows no interest to painting while being awake! Hadwin has been suffering from somnambulism since the age of 4, with time his disease progressed and Hadwin began to discover his paintings on all surfaces around him: walls, tablecloths, newspapers, clothes, etc.
Robert Wood, a 55-year old cook suffers from somnambulism for around 40 years. Four or five times a week he gets out of his bed and goes to the kitchen where he cooks omelets, roast, and chips.
In 2005 a computer expert was found naked on his lawn. A wife of 34-year man was waked up by some noise. Looking out of the window, she saw her husband cutting grass by a lawn mower, totally naked.
One more interesting story happened with one Australian woman. During sleep she was getting out of her house and having sex with strangers. Such night walks were happening several months, until her husband woke up at night and found his wife in a garden, having sex with unknown man. Clinical investigation proved that the woman suffered from severe form of somnambulism.
Help for Sleepwalkers
If you have a sleepwalker in your family, try to follow some safety rules that will help to avoid problems or injuries:
- Hide all sharp and dangerous subjects from the sleepwalker’s room
- Make sure that a sleepwalker sleeps on the first floor (if possible)
- Close windows and doors
- Place a little bell on doors and windows
For those who suffer from sleepwalking psychiatrists advise to use methods of relaxation and yoga. Any physical activities are useful as well, as they help your muscles to relax.