Sleepwalking (cont.)

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What are associated factors to consider?

Sleepwalking seems to be associated with inherited (genetic), environmental, physiologic, and medical factors.

Genetic factors

Sleepwalking occurs more frequently in identical twins, and is 10 times more likely to occur if a first-degree relative has a history of sleepwalking.

Environmental factors

Sleep deprivation, chaotic sleep schedules, fever, stress, magnesium deficiency, and alcohol intoxication can trigger sleepwalking. Drugs, for example, sedative/hypnotics (drugs that promote sleep), neuroleptics (drugs used to treat psychosis), minor tranquilizers (drugs that produce a calming effect), stimulants (drugs that increase activity), and antihistamines (drugs used to treat symptoms of allergies) can cause sleepwalking.

Physiologic factors

Physiologic factors that may contribute to sleepwalking include:

  • the length and depth of slow wave sleep, which is greater in young children, may be a factor in the increased frequency of sleepwalking in children;
  • conditions such as pregnancy and menstruation are known to increase the frequency of sleepwalking;
  • associated medical conditions;
  • arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms);
  • fever;
  • gastroesophageal reflux (acid reflux - food or liquid regurgitating from the stomach into the food pipe);
  • nighttime asthma;
  • nighttime seizures (convulsions);
  • obstructive sleep apnea (condition in which breathing stops temporarily while sleeping); and
  • psychiatric disorders, for example, posttraumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, or dissociative states (for example, multiple personality disorder)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/22/2014

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