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More of us are sleepwalking – Ogden Clinic provided source, Standard-Examiner 2/17/2015

OGDEN – Is a zombie in the house or are you sleepwalking again?

Approximately 8.4 million U.S. adults sleepwalk each year, according to a study published in the journal, Neurology. Researchers said that’s nearly double the amount estimated 30 years ago, which debunks the impression that sleepwalking is rare.

The study also found significantly higher rates in sleepwalking among people with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder or those who abuse alcohol. Medication also seemed to play a role in sleepwalking. Those taking SSRI antidepressants, such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft or over-the-counter sleeping pills were three times likely to sleepwalk than those not taking the medication.

Dr. Chris Hammond, a neurologist and specialist in sleep medicine at the Ogden Clinic, said there can be genetic susceptibility as well. In addition, while sleepwalking in children is often common, emotional stress factors such as school or being a victim of bullying can trigger sleepwalking.

With the elderly, neurological disorders should be considered, Hammond said, especially those with a history of stroke or signs of dementia.

Environmental factors such as noise can be a factor as can domestic stress such as divorce or moving, Hammond said.

“If identified in the act, sleepwalking is obvious,” Hammond said. “But if people are not observed in the sleepwalking activity or for those people living alone, indications of sleepwalking may be awakening to food wrappers in bed or food left out on the counter. Disheveled rooms or misplaced items can also be a clue, or a person may just not feel refreshed with sleep or may have daytime sleepiness that is not explained.”

Hammond said the old adage would suggest not waking a sleepwalker, but there is no evidence that awakening a person from sleepwalking leads to harm.

“Although there have been reports that awaking a sleepwalker may result in confusional arousals leading to the sleepwalking lashing out, and I suppose, the potential consequences of such,” Hammond said.

If sleepwalking might be a problem, see a doctor to address any medications or sleep apnea that may be contributing.

To prevent yourself or others from injury, The Cleveland Clinic suggests you make sure your home is safe. Lock all doors and windows, keep weapons out of reach, put car keys away, install stairway gates, remove breakable objects away from the bed and do not allow children to sleep in a top bunk.