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Sleepwalking in Children and Adults
September 03, 2012

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Sleepwalking in Children and Adults

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Today's Quote

"O gentle sleep!/Nature's soft nurse."

William Shakespeare, The Second Part of King Henry the Fourth

Sleepwalking in Children and Adults

John Bell lifted the latch on his Sierra Nevada cabin front door and shuffled outside into the moonlight.

On the front porch were two hungry, fat raccoons. In the sage brush in front of the cabin were another dozen or two raccoons milling around.

Bell sauntered right out into the middle of them all...just like Rod Taylor had gingerly tippy-toed through hundreds of birds at the end of Alfred Hitchcock's movie thriller, The Birds.

The difference between Taylor and Bell, though, was that Bell was sound asleep.

He was an adult sleepwalker

John Bell was not only my best friend, he was kin, as some say down here in Georgia.

We shared something else in common...we were both sleepwalkers. Sleepwalking often runs in families, proving that in a large percentage of cases, genetics is what causes sleepwalking.

I remember several of my own episodes of somnambulism (the sleep disorder term for sleepwalking).

I started sleepwalking at a young age, perhaps four or five. Sleepwalking in children often starts between four and eight years of age.

Here is my earliest recollection of sleepwalking.

My mother had purchased a new washing machine. She kept that big box it came in and used it in the basement for dirty laundry.

Us five kids would toss our clothes in the shoot in the upstairs bathroom above the basement and send our dirty unmentionables flying down to that box.

On more than one occasion, I woke up in that box after sleepwalking, my head covered by someone's dainties or one of my brother's dirty socks.

Never could figure out how I got in there or what the heck I was doing in the laundry box wrapped in a dirty towel.

Sleepwalkers do weird things. And sleepwalking in adults can be dangerous. Like John.

John Bell took his nocturnal ramblings to extremes. He used to feed those raccoons on the nights he wasn't sleepwalking.

I told him he was nuts; these creatures carry rabies. He didn't seem to care. He had an animal magnetism about him. Dogs loved him. Cats loved him. Raccoons loved his bread.

He even had a pet blue jay named Scruffy. Scruff would fly in from wherever and hang out with us on the front porch, eating seeds or whatever.

Sometimes we'd traipse into the kitchen to grab a brew or fruit drink. Scruffy would hop through the front door and bounce on into the kitchen to see what was happening.

On the moonlit night of the raccoons, I woke up just in time to gently take John by the arm and quietly lead him back into the cabin. I could tell by the empty, glassy look in his eyes that he was sleepwalking.

It's not a good idea to abruptly wake someone who sleepwalks...especially one with five raccoons chomping at his ankles.

Sleepwalkers can sometimes get agitated or violent when you wake them up. Although it's usually not a big deal if you calmly wake them up and lead them back to bed.

The last time I remember sleepwalking, I was 12

I walked over to the top of the stairs on the second floor...and stepped off into thin air.

I tumbled down and down, head over heels, and ended up at the bottom rolled up in a bruised heap. I was black and blue for weeks but luckily did not break an arm, leg, or my neck.

Now you might be wondering where the family was at these times.

My parents would often catch me and lead me back to bed. That's because sleepwalking usually occurs in the early part of sleep, after an hour or so of getting into bed. Sleepwalking in children is often caught because the parents are still awake.

However, if you live with a sleepwalker, it can be tough to keep them from rambling.

I remember one night John Bell and I had gone camping. We were in our twenties. Here I was a former sleepwalker and I still could not keep John from his night walking.

I was in the tent sound asleep when I heard a woman's terrifying scream in the distance. I shot up and noticed Bell was not in the tent.

He had gotten out of his sleeping bag, and wearing nothing but his underwear, had proceeded to walk around the campground. Unfortunately, while still sound asleep, he had walked into this woman's tent and was just standing there.

When she woke up, she let out her wrenching shriek, and John woke up. He was completely disoriented and yelled out “What the Hell!”

He bolted out the lady's tent door. By then I was in front of our tent.

I'll never forget the sight of John zigzagging through that campground in just his skivvies trying to find our tent in the dark. He never got caught and we skedaddled out of there in the early morning.

By the way, John was as sweet as they come. Shy and quiet as a hermit. He never harmed this woman or anyone else in his short lifetime. John felt terrible for shocking the wits out of that poor woman.

He and I had many laughs about that episode over the years. The sight of him frantically racing through that campground in the dark in his underwear always cracked me up.

In reality, sleepwalking isn't funny

People can do wildly inappropriate things—such as urinating in the refrigerator or a closet—when walking in their sleep.

People also get seriously injured, especially men sleepwalkers. A few years back, a British tourist vacationing in Spain fell 35 feet from a third floor hotel balcony while he was sleepwalking. I think he lost an eye.

And people die from sleepwalking, some being hit by cars. Most children outgrow their sleepwalking, just as I did, around age 12 or so. So treatment is not necessary.

However, more than four percent of adults are sleepwalkers.

John was an adult sleepwalker. I don't know if he ever stopped. He died a super tragic death in his forties, so I'll never know (it wasn't from sleepwalking).

I'm not the least bit embarrassed about having had the sleep disorder, sleepwalking. It is not a sign of a mental problem, in case you're wondering.

Sleepwalking is an arousal disorder and sleepwalkers are unaware of some of the elaborate tasks they can perform while asleep.

Another interesting thing is that sleepwalking is often caused by severe sleep deprivation and sleep debt. Just one more reason to catch your ZZZZZZs.

Sleepwalkers are not dreaming when they walk about. They typically have no memory of the experience either.

If you live with a child or adult who sleepwalks, take precautions to keep them safe at night. Perhaps put an alarm on the bedroom door and your front door. Keep windows locked. Make sure harmful objects...including guns and knives...are safely locked up.

If sleepwalking is a problem in your household, especially sleepwalking in adults, discuss it with a doctor or sleep specialist.

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Click here for: Maverick Mattress CEO Answers the Question, What is the Best Mattress for You? ...and Exposes Dirty-Little Secrets Mattress Stores Don't Want You to Know.

My New Website

My website was recently migrated to a new software platform, which is one reason I held off on writing this ezine for quite a while.

Now, though, it's easier than ever for almost anyone to build a website using the new BB2 site builder I use. Check out my article, Best Business to Start for Funding Your Retirement Years.

Essential Success Tip

"One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to get everything perfect before they do anything. Thirty years go by and they still haven't done something.

"You don't have to get it right. You just have to get it going. Do something!"

The late Gary C. Halbert, one of the greatest copywriters and marketers in history

Okay, that's it for today's chat.

Life is a journey. Keep exploring.

I'm outta' here. We'll chat soon.


Rich Silver
Sleep & Health Writer
P.O. Box 95
Dahlonega, GA 30533
Sleep Passport

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