Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder that causes people to get up and walk during their sleep.Episodes of sleepwalking typically occur when a person is in the deep stages of sleep. The sleepwalker is unable to respond during the event and does not remember sleepwalking. In some cases, sleepwalking is associated with incoherent talking.

Sleepwalking occurs most commonly in childhood but can last into adulthood.


Episodes of sleepwalking can range from quiet walking about the room to agitated running or attempts to "escape." Typically, the eyes are open with a glassy, staring appearance as the person quietly roams the house. On questioning, responses are slow or absent. If the person is returned to bed without awakening, the person usually does not remember the event.

Older children, who may awaken more easily at the end of an episode, often are embarrassed by the behavior (especially if it was inappropriate).

What Causes a Person to Sleepwalk?

Several different factors may be involved in the development of sleepwalking. These may include genetics (traits that run in families), environmental and medical conditions.

Sleepwalking is not associated with other sleep problems, sleeping alone in a room or with others, fear of the dark, or anger outbursts.


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. Therefore, it is thought the condition can be inherited.

Environmental Factors

Certain factors may cause a person to sleepwalk, such as:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Chaotic sleep schedules
  • Stress
  • Alcohol intoxication
  • Drugs such as sedative/hypnotics (drugs that promote relaxation or sleep), neuroleptics (drugs used to treat psychosis), stimulants (drugs that increase activity), and antihistamines (drugs used to treat symptoms of allergy)

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions that have been linked to sleepwalking include:

  • Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)
  • Fever
  • Gastroesophageal 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)
  • Psychiatric disorders, for example, posttraumatic stress disorder, panic attack, or dissociative states, such as multiple personality disorder


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