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Sleepwalking: The Causes, the Myths, and Tips to Deal with the Problem

By Thomas Harrison   |   Posted in Sleep Research   |   Thursday 29th January 2015

Sleepwalking: The Causes, the Myths, and Tips to Deal with the Problem

Sleepwalking belongs to the parasomnia family, which is a category of sleep disorders involving unusual nocturnal behaviours or feelings during sleep. During a sleepwalking episode, the individual will arise from the slow-wave stage of sleep (NREM stage 3 or 4) in a state of low consciousness, performing waking activities, most commonly walking, although some people will cook, drive, or even commit sexual acts.

In the United States, almost 4% of the population sleepwalk regularly, and it is estimated that one in three will experience sleepwalking at least once in their lives. The condition is also linked to some other issues, for example, people with depression are three and a half times more likely to sleepwalk, whereas people with OCD are four times more likely.

Sleepwalking causesSleepwalking causes and myths

Like so many aspects of sleep, the exact causes of sleepwalking are yet to be unearthed. Considering that scientists are yet to fully discover why we even sleep in the first place, this comes as no real surprise – there aren’t even definitive answers for why we dream or why we yawn!

As with most parasomnias, sleepwalking occurs when certain physiological systems or hormones are active at inappropriate times. During certain stages of your sleep, your body undergoes paralysis – this is to prevent you from acting out your dreams, and acts almost as an evolutionary defence mechanism. Scientists at the University of Toronto have only recently discovered what causes this paralysis, and the responsible chemicals are glycine and GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid). The research was conducted on rats, and the experts discovered that during sleep, these two chemicals ‘switch off’ specialised brain cells that allow muscles to be active. From this research, scientists can conclude that an absence of one or both of the two chemicals is responsible for sleepwalking. Further evidence that supports this theory is that in children, the neurons that release GABA are still developing, meaning they have less control over the voluntary muscles of their body during sleep – this can explain why children are more likely to wet the bed than adults, and also why sleepwalking is much more prevalent among children. According to neurobiologist Antonio Oliviero; “In some, this inhibitory system (GABA) may remain underdeveloped — or be rendered less effective by environmental factors — and sleepwalking can persist into adulthood.

There are believed to be a number of triggers which can increase the likelihood of sleepwalking to occur, such as:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Illness
  • Certain medications
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Sleepwalking can also be hereditary
  • Alcohol consumption and drug use
  • Going to bed with a full bladder

Sleepwalking myths

Never wake a sleepwalker: One myth about sleepwalking is that the worst thing you can do is to try to wake them up during an episode, which some even going as far as saying it can result in a heart attack or send the sleepwalker into shock. This is completely false – there are no reported cases of damage being caused by waking a sleepwalker, although they may be disorientated and confused upon awakening which will quickly pass.

Sleepwalking is harmless: Sleepwalking is anything but harmless, and even if the safety of the individual is ensured during an actual episode, the sleepwalking itself could be a symptom of a more serious underlying health problem, such as heart rhythm problems, seizures, obstructive sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome, or a number of psychiatric disorders. For more information about these issues, take a look at the NHS website page about sleepwalking, although in most cases, the sleepwalking won’t be associated with other health problems, but it’s best to be safe.

You’re more likely to sleepwalk when you’re older: Actually, the opposite is truer – sleepwalking is most likely to occur in children between ages 6-12, but most children who sleepwalk will outgrow the condition by the time they reach puberty.

Dealing with sleepwalking

There are no definitive cures for sleepwalking, and the key is often to ensure the sleepwalker’s safety should an episode occur, although there are some tips that can help:

Get more sleep: As touched upon, sleep deprivation and fatigue can increase the likelihood of a sleepwalking episode to occur, so it vital that sleepwalkers prioritise their sleep health, especially if they’re getting less than the recommended 8 hours per night. Perhaps the mattress being used could be a contributing factor – coil-sprung and spring-based mattresses don’t offer anywhere near the comfort levels needed for good sleep, and it would be unwise to compromise the sleep quality of someone who suffers from sleepwalking. A memory foam mattress would be an ideal choice for a sufferer of sleepwalking, and can help them to naturally drift off at night – our mattresses are currently on sale, so it’s definitely worth upgrading to a more premium mattress if you or a loved one sleepwalk. Having good sleep hygiene is the key to battling parasomnias.

Keep your stress in check: Sleeping well relies on a stress-free mind, and stress and anxiety can often be a trigger for sleepwalking. Evaluate every possible anxiety-causing aspect of your life, no matter how big or small, and we’d recommend practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a popular self-calming technique, and focuses the mind on the present, rather than future obstacles or stresses of the past. Read more about it here, as well as other ways to banish bedtime stress.

Lock windows and doors: If the sleepwalking is persistent, you’ll want to take every precaution to ensure the safety of the individual during an episode. Create a safe bedroom environment with nothing that can be smashed or broken. Keep the keys safely hidden away because even a barely-conscious sleepwalker can still unlock doors or even cars.

It’s important to remember that sleepwalking isn’t just some amusing strange occurrence – although in the majority of cases, sleepwalking is nothing to worry about, but if it’s happening often then you need to consult a medical professional - it could be a symptom of something more serious. 




5 Bedtime Teas - Finding the Perfect Sleep-Friendly Cuppa

Wednesday 28th January 2015

5 Bedtime Teas - Finding the Perfect Sleep-Friendly Cuppa

bedtime teasDrinking tea can be a great way to relax in the evening, relieving the stress of the day and preparing your body and mind for a night of blissful sleep. However, many teas contain significant levels of caffeine and can in fact have energising effects, which makes your choice of bedtime tea an important one. The good news is that it’s easy to learn which teas to rule out, and which ones to consider for your nightly drink.

A basic rule of thumb is that all tea that comes from any part of the tea plants (camellia sinensis and camellia assamica) will have some form of natural caffeine in it, and won’t be ideal for late evening drinking if you’re looking to improve your sleep quality. This includes green and black teas of all varieties. However, herbal teas – those made from other plants – are free from caffeine, and many have powerfully relaxing properties.

There are hundreds of herbal blends from artisan tea-makers that are ideal for bedtime, and it’s well worth taking the time to research what’s out there and what might suit your particular palate. Also, as some herbal teas are so powerful it’s also important to check whether they’re right for you.

We’ve gathered some popular sleep-friendly varieties here to help you get started. Let’s take a look;

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: 5 Bedtime Teas - Finding the Perfect Sleep-Friendly Cuppa

We’ve Gone Gold… Again!

Tuesday 27th January 2015

We’ve Gone Gold… Again!

Ergoflex has been awarded the Feefo Gold Trusted Merchant award for the second year in a row. We’re especially delighted by the fact that we’ve maintained our 5 star rating for two years running, as it shows that our customers continue to value our memory foam mattresses and our customer service – and they want to tell the world about it too! 

Category: Ergo Flex News

Read full: We’ve Gone Gold… Again!

The Science of Beauty Sleep

Monday 26th January 2015

The Science of Beauty Sleep

There are so many myths surrounding the world of sleep: we’ve already proven false some common sleep myths like the fact that eating cheese doesn’t give you nightmares, and how you can’t make up for lost sleep at the weekend (among other myths). You’d be forgiven for thinking that the idea of beauty sleep also falls into this 'myth' category – how can sleeping longer make you more attractive?  

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: The Science of Beauty Sleep

How Alcohol Kills our Bedtime Routines and our Sleep - Survey

Thursday 22nd January 2015

How Alcohol Kills our Bedtime Routines and our Sleep - Survey

alcohol sleepSleeping fully clothed, leaving the TV all night on and eating in bed… most of us would baulk at the idea of doing these things at bedtime, but they’re just some of the things that are common when we’re drunk, according to our latest sleep survey. We asked over 2,400 UK residents about their night-time routines when they’ve had a drink, and the findings revealed a ‘what not to do’ list of bedtime behaviour.

The top five responses were;

  1. Going to bed fully-clothed
  2. Forgetting to remove hair products/make up
  3. Eating in bed
  4. Falling asleep with the TV on
  5. Forgetting to remove jewellery

As for the effects of such bedtime blunders the morning after, a massive 72% of respondents admitted to regretting their behaviour and wishing they’d stuck to their normal sleep routines.

 

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: How Alcohol Kills our Bedtime Routines and our Sleep - Survey

Things Hollywood Teaches Us about Sleep (That Aren't True)

Tuesday 20th January 2015

Things Hollywood Teaches Us about Sleep (That Aren't True)

Films are full of clichés and scenarios that don’t really translate well into the real world – like how detectives will only ever solve a crime once they’ve been suspended from the case, or how you never really see characters go to the bathroom, and when they do, they’re usually dead within minutes. Hollywood also has a fairly ambiguous idea of the world of sleep, and unfortunately, many film-viewers take Hollywood’s approach as being fact. We’re going to unravel the truth behind some of the common things that movies teach about sleep that just simply aren't true…

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Things Hollywood Teaches Us about Sleep (That Aren't True)

Top Sleep Tips: How to Fall Asleep Faster and Wake up Feeling Fresh

Thursday 15th January 2015

Top Sleep Tips: How to Fall Asleep Faster and Wake up Feeling Fresh

Falling asleep isn’t an exact science, and everyone has their own unique night-time routines and methods to try to drift off. However, there are some useful tips that almost everyone can benefit from, so if you sometimes have Sleep tipsdifficulties falling asleep, there’s definitely something here you can take away. Similarly, the process of waking up can be challenging, and is the hardest part of the day for many! Our tips should have you feeling fresh in no time, especially if you’re not usually a morning person…

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Top Sleep Tips: How to Fall Asleep Faster and Wake up Feeling Fresh

Unwashed PJs – Bedtime’s Hidden Hygiene Horror

Thursday 8th January 2015

Unwashed PJs – Bedtime’s Hidden Hygiene Horror

Our latest look at the UK’s sleep routines focused on what we wear to bed, and quite unexpectedly revealed some rather alarming hygiene statistics. Quizzing nearly 2,500 18-30 year olds, we found that the average length of time men wear their pyjamas before washing them was a startling 13 nights, while incredibly women went even further, wearing the same nightwear for an average of 17 nights!

Of the reasons behind why nightwear is washed so infrequently, the top result for women (54%) was that by alternating between multiple pairs it’s easy to forget how long they’ve been out for, while men mainly claimed that they didn’t do the washing so just wore what was to hand (73%). When it came to particular hygiene considerations, 41% of women and 50% of men claimed that since their nightwear didn’t smell (to them at least), they didn’t see why wearing them for such long periods was a problem.

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Unwashed PJs – Bedtime’s Hidden Hygiene Horror

Sleeponomics: Could Sleep Deprivation Be the Real Reason Politicians Make Bad Decisions?

Wednesday 7th January 2015

Sleeponomics: Could Sleep Deprivation Be the Real Reason Politicians Make Bad Decisions?

Being the leader of a country is arguably one of the most stressful jobs in the world: with millions to answer to, the fate of the nation rests in their hands, and it’s hard to image the stress that this level of responsibility causes. And it’s not just the leaders, but pretty much any politician whose decisions come under intense scrutiny from the masses – they’re always under the microscope and it’s never easy to get it right. Politicians on the whole are often accused of making poor decisions, but perhaps there’s an underlying reason for a politician’s apparent lack of decision-making skills – and that reason could be sleep deprivation.

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Sleeponomics: Could Sleep Deprivation Be the Real Reason Politicians Make Bad Decisions?

New Year’s Resolutions – How Sleep Decides Your Success or Failure

Thursday 1st January 2015

New Year’s Resolutions – How Sleep Decides Your Success or Failure

New Year resolutions usually involve making a sacrifice, removing something from your lifestyle, or perhaps starting something new. Another regular element of a resolution is improving health and wellbeing, as we strive towards an ‘ideal’ version of ourselves. Whatever your resolution goal is, there’s a high chance that whether or not you achieve it will depend on how well you sleep. Since it affects so many elements of our lives – energy levels, mood, mental acuity and more - it stands to reason that sleep should play a key role in our daytime activities, New Year resolutions and all.

You’re likely to find that once you’ve achieved a better quality sleep on a regular basis it’ll be far easier to successfully introduce other changes into your life, such as more frequent exercise, or a healthier diet. Sleep really is the platform for improving your wellbeing, and without good sleep you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage from the outset.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common New Year resolutions and check out how sleep can determine their success or failure.

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: New Year’s Resolutions – How Sleep Decides Your Success or Failure

The Perfect New Year's Resolution: Get More Sleep

Tuesday 30th December 2014

The Perfect New Year's Resolution: Get More Sleep

Although many of you have big aspirations for a ‘new you’ for the New Year, many New Year’s resolutions fall flat within the first few weeks, if not days. Things like giving up alcohol, hitting the gym once a week, going on a diet or learning a new instrument or language are popular choices, but are often unrealistic or too impractical to be followed through – if only there was a resolution that was simple, required minimal effort, but still made a big life improvement…

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: The Perfect New Year's Resolution: Get More Sleep

How to Combat Christmas Stress

Monday 15th December 2014

How to Combat Christmas Stress

It’s that time of year yet again. However, the festive period is often a time of overindulgence for many, especially in the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day: and that’s fine, we all deserve a break every now and then, but it’s still important to keep track of your sleep quality, which is a big ask considering all the stress, excitement and social events happening over the festive period.

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: How to Combat Christmas Stress

‘Tis the Season to Be… Tired? Parties & Visiting Relatives Top Sleep Loss Poll

Wednesday 10th December 2014

‘Tis the Season to Be… Tired? Parties & Visiting Relatives Top Sleep Loss Poll

Christmas is a time for family, fun and socialising… or should that be sleep loss, stress and household tension? Well, the results of our latest sleep survey show that the festive season can cause a great deal of lost sleep for various reasons, and some things that should be fun can turn out to be anything but when it comes to reality. Overall, 71% of us experience less sleep than usual over Christmas and New Year, with the average amount of sleep lost coming in at over 30 hours for the period.

That’s a lot of sleep missed, let’s take a look at the main reasons behind it.

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: ‘Tis the Season to Be… Tired? Parties & Visiting Relatives Top Sleep Loss Poll

The Shocking Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

Friday 5th December 2014

The Shocking Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

There is a widespread ignorance towards the consequences of sleep deprivation – many people underestimate the value of consistently getting a good night’s sleep, and treat being tired as being a relatively harmless part of everyday life. In reality, consistent sleep deprivation has some serious consequences, and it really doesn’t take that much to be sleep deprived. Not sleeping enough negatively impacts pretty much every aspect of your everyday life, both mentally and physically, and even if those consequences aren’t immediately visible, consistent lack of sleep really takes its toll over the years. Let’s take a look at the real price of poor sleep.

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: The Shocking Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

Is Pillow Talk Over? How Social Media is Dominating our Bedrooms

Wednesday 3rd December 2014

Is Pillow Talk Over? How Social Media is Dominating our Bedrooms

Pillow talk between couples may be a thing of the past as social media makes its way into the bedroom on smartphones and tablets, according to our latest sleep survey. We quizzed co-habiting couples on their pre-sleep routines and found that simply chatting together wasn’t on the agenda for most, with technology-related activities firmly taking priority before lights out.

The top five most-popular activities for those who don’t go straight to sleep were;

  1. View social media – 59%
  2. Watch TV – 53%
  3. Browse internet on phone/tablet – 46%
  4. Read a book – 21%
  5. Pillow talk with partner – 11%

It’s easy to see how the advancement in mobile technology has shaped what we do before sleep, but is that progress coming at the cost of our sleep and even our relationships? Let’s take a look at the situation.

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Is Pillow Talk Over? How Social Media is Dominating our Bedrooms

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