Sleepwalking: a particular sleep disorder

Sleepwalking often arouses much interest because of the strange and disturbing characteristics of the behavior of the people who present it.

It is a sleep disorder that is characterized because the person wakes up partially. The essential characteristic of sleepwalking is the existence of repeated episodes of complex motor behaviors that begin during deep sleep.

The sleepwalker usually does things or talks while she is asleep, such as rubbing one's eyes, walking around the room or even leaving the house.

In addition, a sleepwalker he has the ability to avoid objects, but the mind and the capacity for reason are very altered. It can be said that the person acts and speaks but is not aware of anything that is happening.

It is estimated that the prevalence of sleepwalking in the general population is between 1% and 15%. The onset or persistence of this disorder in adults is common, although it is much higher in children. It is not usually associated with any psychiatric or psychological problem.

Sleepwalking and the first stage of non-REM sleep

This sleep disorder occurs during the first stage of non-REM sleep. To understand it better, we will explain in a simple way the different stages of the dream.

Not all rest or sleep is the same once we get into bed. The dream is divided into cycles of approximately 90 minutes that repeat themselves during the hours we sleep.

Within these cycles, there are different stages of two types of sleep: the slow dream and the paradoxical dream. Let's see, next, the different stages classified in REM sleep and non-REM sleep.

Dream no REM

During non-REM sleep the following phases are given:

  • Phase I or numbness stage: comprises approximately the first 10 minutes of sleep. It is a transitional stage, from the time we are in the waking period until we are asleep.
  • Phase II or light sleep stage: occupies about 50% of our sleep cycles. Both breathing and heart rate slow down. During this phase is when people have the typical dream of falling off a cliff and suddenly wake up.
  • Phase II or transition stage: it is a short stage, of barely two or three minutes in which we approach the deep sleep.
  • Phase IV or deep sleep stage: this stage occupies approximately 20% of the total sleep cycle. It is the most important when determining the quality of rest. It is very difficult to wake up. It is in this phase that the sleepwalker "wakes up".

Read also: How to do breathing exercises to improve sleep

REM sleep or paradoxical sleep stage

It covers approximately 25% of the sleep cycle and lasts between 15 and 30 minutes. During this phase, we have a constant movement of the eyeballs under the eyelids.

It is characterized by having a high brain activity, very similar to when we are awake, although our muscles are blocked. It is the phase in which we dream and collect information from abroad.

Causes of sleepwalking

As we said at the beginning of the article, sleepwalking has a higher prevalence in children than in adults. The reason is that adults, as they get older, have a shorter non-REM sleep period.

This disorder tends to be hereditary. In addition, fatigue, lack of sleep and anxiety are associated with the problem. On the other hand, other factors that favor its development are:

If you ever meet a person who is sleepwalking, The first thing you should do is not to get scared and stay calm. Then, it is recommended to guide the person to bed talking to him with a soft tone, with short and clear sentences.

You may also be interested in reading: Children who want to sleep in their parents' bed


In many cases, simply by improving sleep hygiene you can eliminate the problem. If it is not improved with these measures, it is advisable to speak with a professional to discuss the possible factors causing the problem.

Some patients have claimed that they have been cured with techniques such as hypnotism. In addition, there is also pharmacological treatment to try to improve it.

However, sleepwalking is usually reduced over the years because, as we have said, as we get older, the phase of deep sleep is less and there is less chance of waking up sleepwalking.