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Sleepwalking

Sleepwalking (also called noctambulism or somnambulism) is a sleep disorder where the sufferer engages in activities that are normally associated with wakefulness while asleep or in a sleeplike state. Sleepwalking can affect people of any age.

Statistics

Somewhere between 1% and 17% of US children sleepwalk, and juveniles are seen to be those more prone to the activity. Some 18% of Americans are prone to the act, roughly 2 in 11 of the US population

One study showed that the highest prevalence of sleepwalking was 16.7% for children of 11 to 12 years of age. Boys are seen to be more likely to sleepwalk than girls. Activities such as eating, dressing or even driving cars have also been recorded as taking place while the subjects are technically asleep. There are even very rare instances of sleepwalkers, unknowingly, committing murder while in this trance-like condition. Most cases of sleepwalking, however, usually consist of walking, without the conscious knowledge of the subject.

Sleepwalkers engage in their activities with their eyes open so they can navigate their surroundings, not with their eyes closed and their arms outstretched as parodied in cartoons and Hollywood productions. The victims' eyes may have a glazed or empty appearance and if questioned, the subject will be slow to answer or unresponsive.

While sleepwalking does not pose a great health concern by itself, accidents may happen as the subject is performing actions without the conscious mind.

A common myth surrounding this disorder is that one should never wake a sleepwalker while they are engaged in the activity. In truth, there is no implicit danger in waking a sleepwalker, though the subject may be disoriented or embarrassed when awakened. In fact, in some situations such as when the sleepwalker is a danger to themselves or others, for example, going up or down steps, trying to use a stove or a knife, etc, it is better to risk mythical danger from waking them than to let them hurt themselves.


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