Never Wake A Sleepwalker


Bizkit, The Sleep Walking Dog

"Sara, what are you doing?"

I'm awakened by my mom gently awakening me- and posing a good question. What was I doing? And why was I at the front door?

Confused, I'm sent back to bed. In the morning, I learned that I had wandered around the house before proceeding to tell my mom I was going "out."

 I suffered from sleep walking just a few times as a kid (luckily)- and I am one of many. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 1-15% of the population suffers from somnambulism, a behavior disorder that originates during deep sleep and results in walking or performing other complex behaviors while asleep - aka sleepwalking.

The disorder is most common in children (ages 6-12) and persistence into adulthood is not common.

Symptoms include:

  • Sleep talking, walking, or even driving
  • Little or no memory of the event
  • Difficulty arousing the sleepwalker during an episode
  • Inappropriate behavior such as urinating in closets (more common in children)
  • Screaming (when sleepwalking occurs in conjunction with sleep terrors)
  • Violent attacks on the person trying to awaken the sleepwalker
  • Gassy eyes


Sleepwalking can be a danger to the sleepwalker themselves- as well as those around them. According to BBC, "Professor Matthew Walker from University College London Hospital's Sleep Clinic once had a patient who went out of his house, got into his car and drove, all while fast asleep. Then there was the case of the 15 year old girl who in 2005 was found curled up asleep at the top of a 130ft crane, having climbed there while sleepwalking." These incidents are rare- more commonly, sleepwalkers wander into the street.

Unfortunately, there is no cure. For decades, parents have turned to drugs- but there may be a simple, new method.

The Journal of Pediatric Society did an observational study consisting of 3 children- two boys, one girl. Each child had a history of sleepwalking more than 3 times a week for over 12 weeks.

For a few weeks, the parents of the children were to measure each incident- the time it occurred, latency from sleep, behavior during the incident. This determined the optimal time of night for implementing anticipatory awakening. Each night, the parents would gently awaken the child 15-30 minutes befor the usual time of the onset sleepwalking (which was generally an hour and a half to two and a half hours after the child fell asleep). After they were woken, they were allowed to fall back asleep.

For all three children, the intervention worked- and soon, the children began awakening on their own.

This study is encouraging. However, there are numerous issues. The study only consisted of three children, meaning results could have been skewed. Additionally, results relied on reliability of parents monitoring. For more accurate information, the study should habe used actigraphs or videos or monitor the children's behavior.

In addition, we don't know the potential damage mid-night awakenings could have on the children's sleep schedule.

But for those suffering from sleepwalking, anticipatory awakening is an option to try. Sufferers have more to gain from the unconventional method than they have to lose.





The subject of sleep activity is really interesting to explore. A specific case came to mind when I first read the title of your article. It had to do with a sleepwalking Australian woman who left her home at night and sought out sexual partners, with no memory of it afterwards. The link can be found here:
If that kind of stimulation doesn't rouse you from your sleep, the risk of engaging in dangerous behavior is very real. I'm glad they're making headway into sleepwalking intervention. Though it's often discussed in a lighthearted or humorous context, sleepwalking has the potential to be life-threatening.

People have this idea that if you wake a sleepwalker you can give them a heart attack, but according to The New York Times this is highly unlikely. In the article, The Claim: Never WAke a Sleepwalker, Anahad O'Connor discusses how this urban legend began. He writes, "Dr. Ana C. Krieger, the director of the Sleep Disorders Center at New York University, said the myth probably started because of sleepwalkers' response when they're awakened. Many are confused and terrified, having no idea how they ended up in a dark closet or gliding down a hallway." She goes on to say they might not even recognize relatives, a friend, or child. Being around a sleepwalking person can be very scary and the best way to handle a situation like this is to guide them back to their room by the arm, holding onto their elbow. Although researches are not 100% sure what causes someone to sleepwalk, it is known that it usually occurs during the deepest and most restful stages of sleep.

I love this article considering it touched base with something that is so common. Many of my friends dealt with sleepwalking when younger and no longer experience it now. Because of your research indicating sleepwalking occurs during certain ages, I now understand why their habits had stopped. I agree that the study you based your article off of does need some reconsidering. Only 3 children tested clearly is not enough to provide substantial evidence. Also the ratio of boys to girls is off, and should be equal considering you want both studies to have the exact same variables. I also think it would provide to the study if they tested other factors that may cause one to sleepwalk. Maybe a survey to measure the child's habits and how they may correlate with their sleepwalking. This could raise the possibility of a 3rd variable being the reason behind sleepwalking and if one is found it can then be prevented. I really enjoyed your article and the details of sleepwalking. This article goes more in depth with sleepwalking and provides statistical evidence having to do with the nightly habit. Check it out!

This is a great article because it deals with something that so many people experience in their lives-- if not directly, someone close to them probably has done it. My sister used to rearrange her sock drawer and end up downstairs curled up in a chair, I used to talk and scream in my sleep, and my friend walked out of his house into the street. It's awesome to hear that they're starting to find ways to help this since it can be such a danger to those affected by it. But I always wondered why people sleep walk in the first place. WebMD says there are many causes, but genetics, environmental factors, and medical conditions are the three major reasons. This article goes more in depth as to the causes of sleep walking!

My older sister used to sleep walk all of the time and it was an extremely frightening experience. It usually was just around the house and we would gently guide her back to her room so that we would not wake her up, until one night my dad thought that he heard our front door open. He was not sure, so he kind of brushed it off, until he looked out the window and saw my sister walking towards the pond in the yard. He quickly ran out and grabbed her, but he grabbed her without being careful out of panic and she woke up screaming. Waking up from sleepwalking can result close to having a sleep terror, which is extremely dangerous

Leave a comment

Subscribe to receive notifications of follow up comments via email.
We are processing your request. If you don't see any confirmation within 30 seconds, please reload your page.

Search This Blog

Full Text  Tag

Recent Entries

My name is __ and I am an Addict
No matter how old I get I cannot stop the habit of biting my fingernails. I have tried everything…
Step one: snap an awesome pic! Step two: pick out a flattering filter. Step three: Post it on the…
Stop Smiling Guys and We'll Start Wanting You
A recent study by the University of British Columbia claims that women find happy guys less sexually attractive than brooding…

Old Contributions