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"Is there a medical condition associated with sleep walking?"

ZocdocAnswersIs there a medical condition associated with sleep walking?


My mother is a sleep walker and I'm worried that she is going to hurt herself one of these nights. Is this a medical condition that she can be treated for? Or is it just in your head and she needs to see a psychiatrist?


Sleep walking is a common disorder in children, and it tends to resolve in adults. However, sometimes it does persist, as it seems to have in the case of your mother. Most cases of sleep walking are due to disturbances in the non-REM (non-dreaming) part of the sleep cycle. Usually these are not related to any underlying medical problem. Rather they tend to be associated with stress, fatigue, and lifestyle factors. For these reasons, it is particularly important to address stress, make sure that sleep is adequate, and avoid any stimulants such as caffeine in order to improve sleep. With these steps, many cases will resolve. Most adults with persistent sleep walking should, however, at least see their primary care doctors because there are a few medical conditions that should be ruled out. These include severe acid reflux and obstructive sleep apnea. It is also important to have a psychiatric screening, as some psychiatric disorders, particularly post traumatic stress disorder, are associated with sleep walking. After a basic evaluation, if no medical treatable causes are identified and lifestyle factors have been addressed, it is sometimes necessary to prescribe a medication, such as a benzodiazepine or a trycyclic anti depressant, in order to help regulate the sleep cycle. Your mother's doctor will be able to advise her on this.

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