Entries in Sleepwalking (4)


Sleepwalking More Common Than Suspected, Study Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- About 8.5 million Americans walk in their sleep, according to a new study, the largest ever to document the prevalence of these nighttime walkers.

Researchers from Stanford University interviewed nearly 16,000 adults in 15 states about their nocturnal habits. They found that 3.6 percent of them reported sleepwalking more than once during the previous year. About 1 percent said they had two or more sleepwalking episodes in a month.

Previous studies found that sleepwalking was pretty common, especially in children. But Dr. Maurice Ohayon, the study's lead author and director of Stanford's Sleep Epidemiology Research Center, said he was surprised to learn just how many sleepwalkers there were.

"There are very few sleep disorders with so high a prevalence," he said.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, is the first in 30 years to look at how many Americans sleepwalk, and the only study to do so on so wide a scale.

Scientists still don't know exactly what makes people walk in their sleep. But it is clear that the behavior can be risky if they get into dangerous situations without being conscious of what they're doing.

Ohayon and his colleagues found a number of factors showed up more often in people who reported sleepwalking. People who got less than seven hours of sleep each night were more likely to report sleepwalking, and those with sleep apnea (meaning they stop breathing in their sleep) were 3.9 times more likely to do so. People with major depression were 3.5 times more likely to sleepwalk, as were people who abused alcohol. Other psychiatric conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and social phobias also showed up more often in sleepwalkers.

The researchers also found that sleepwalking may be a family affair. About one-third of the study's participants reported having a family member who was also a sleepwalker.

Medications were linked to sleepwalking, particularly over-the-counter sleeping aids and hypnotics, although the data linking sleepwalking to such hypnotic drugs as Ambien was not as strong as some reports have suggested. Researchers also noticed a link between sleepwalking and selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which are antidepressants.

Ohayon said it's not that these factors cause someone to begin sleepwalking. Instead, they may trigger the disorder in people who are predisposed by genetics, physical or psychiatric conditions.

Experts say the numbers in the study are likely an underestimate of sleepwalking, especially since researchers did not observe people during sleep, relying only on a person's memory of a sleepwalking episode.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sleepwalking to Your Death: Is It Possible? YORK) -- It's not unusual for people to walk or talk in their sleep.  But drown while you're sleeping?  It's possible: a New Jersey woman found on Monday may have sleepwalked to her death.

The body of Charlene Ferrero, 55, was found in Newton Lake near Oaklyn, N.J.  Calls to the Oaklyn Police Department were not immediately returned, but WPVI in Philadelphia reports that police ruled her death an accidental drowning.

Ferrero's friends say when she walked to the lake a few blocks from her apartment sometime late Saturday or early Sunday, she may have been sleepwalking.  Teresa Cerini, Ferrero's next door neighbor, told ABC News affiliate WPVI-TV in Philadelphia she had done it about a week and a half before her death.

"I heard a knock on the door, and I go, 'What are you doing up, honey?'  And she goes, 'I'm so sorry.  The people at Table 2 ordered the eggs,'" Cerini told WPVI.

Sleepwalking and other forms of parasomnia are not uncommon. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 10 percent of Americans report some erratic nighttime behaviors like eating, walking, talking, having sex or even become violent while they are asleep.

But most sleepwalkers simply move from room to room in their homes.  Only a few, like Ferrero, end up going farther.

"This case is extreme but not impossible," Dr. David Rapoport, director of the Sleep Medicine Program at New York University School of Medicine, told ABC News. "There are clearly cases of people doing complex things, and these can include driving or walking into dangerous situations."

WPVI reports that Ferrero was spotted driving her car on Saturday night. Cerini said she noticed the car parked awkwardly in front of Ferrero's apartment on the morning she went missing. She told WPVI that she thinks Ferrero may have sleepwalked and fell into the lake.

"Hitting the water and not being roused is unusual. We usually expect a person to wake up after that kind of stimulus," Dr. Helene Emsellem, director of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, Md., told ABC News. "It's hard to know whether she was awakened by that impact or not."

Scientists know that sleepwalking is much more common in children, tends to run in families and can be aggravated by alcohol, stress, fatigue or insomnia.  But exactly how the brain allows a person to perform complex tasks unconsciously is still a mystery.

"Different types of parasomnias may occur in different stages of sleep," Rapoport said. "It is not clear exactly what is happening, but the current thinking is that part of the brain is awake, while part remains asleep."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Could Sleepwalking Be in Your DNA?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ST. LOUIS, Mo.) - New research may have discovered a link between sleepwalking and a person's genetic makeup, reports the BBC.

The study, published in the the journal Neurology, found that the sleep episode may be caused by a defect in a person's DNA carried on a section of the chromosome 20. The faulty chromosome can be passed down from generation to generation with a sleepwalker having a 50-percent chance of passing the DNA onto their children.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine hope the discovery could help them understand and treat the potentially dangerous condition.

Sleepwalking, which is most common in children, is a phenomenon that occurs during a deep phase of sleep where a person can sometimes perform extremely complicated tasks in a trance-like state. The condition affects around one in 50 adults.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Colorado Man Shoots Self in Sleep

Courtesy - Getty Images(BOULDER, Colo.) -- A Colorado man had a clear wakeup call early Tuesday morning. It wasn't an alarm. It was a gunshot.

After the blast, 63-year-old Sanford Rothman found he had shot himself in the knee while sleepwalking. According to The Daily Camera, Rothman told investigators he did not clearly remember the event.

Rothman was taken to the hospital, treated, and released.

Calls to Rothman were not immediately returned, but no illegal activity is said to have been involved in the incident -- a sign that Rothman might simply suffer from what is known among sleep experts as a parasomnia.

Parasomnias are disorders that interrupt sleep and often involve disruptive behaviors. Most of these conditions are fairly rare, but when they occur they can be startling to sufferers and their families. Worse, some people with parasomnias may even inadvertently place themselves or their loved ones in dangerous situations.

Sleep experts say these sleeping disorders can range from mild to severe.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio