Is Sleepwalking (Somnambulism) a Mental Disorder?

Reviewed on 8/3/2021

Sleepwalking (somnambulism) is a sleep disorder that causes undesirable movements, behaviors, or experiences (emotions, perceptions, dreams) during sleep. Sleepwalking is not considered a mental disorder.
Sleepwalking (somnambulism) is a sleep disorder that causes undesirable movements, behaviors, or experiences (emotions, perceptions, dreams) during sleep. Sleepwalking is not considered a mental disorder.

Sleepwalking (somnambulism) is a type of sleep disorder called a parasomnia, which refers to undesirable physical events (movements or behaviors) or experiences (emotions, perceptions, dreams) that occur during sleep

Sleepwalking is not a mental disorder. 

What Are Symptoms of Sleepwalking (Somnambulism)?

Symptoms of sleepwalking (somnambulism) may include:

  • Getting out of bed and walking around
  • Sitting up in bed and opening the eyes
  • Having a glazed, glassy-eyed expression
  • Doing routine daily actions
  • Incoherent speech
  • Difficulty being woken up 
  • Confusion
  • No memory of what happened
  • Sleep terrors
  • Quick return to sleep

Sleepwalking does not always just involve walking. Other actions may occur. Rarely, people who sleepwalk may:

  • Get dressed
  • Leave their house
  • Drive 
  • Move furniture
  • Engage in sexual behavior 
  • Act unusually, such as urinating in inappropriate places such as a closet
  • Injure themselves
  • Become violent

What Causes Sleepwalking (Somnambulism)?

Causes of sleepwalking (somnambulism) include:

Risk factors for sleepwalking include:

How Is Sleepwalking (Somnambulism) Diagnosed?

Sleep disorders are diagnosed with a patient history and physical exam. Tests or procedures that may be used to diagnose sleep disorders or to rule out other underlying conditions include: 

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What Is the Treatment for Sleepwalking (Somnambulism)?

Sleepwalking in children often goes away on its own as children enter adolescence and the teen years. Until then, it is important to create a safe environment so the child does not get injured while sleepwalking. 

  • Remove clutter or other tripping hazards that could cause a child to trip and fall
  • Install a safety gate in the doorway of the child’s bedroom or at the top of the stairs
  • Lock windows and doors at night so a child cannot get outside
  • Children should not sleep in an elevated bed (bunk bed)
  • Keep sharp objects or weapons locked away and out of reach
  • Install lights with motion sensors
  • Consider use of door alarms or a bed alarm that goes off if a person gets out of bed

Treatment for sleepwalking includes:

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Reviewed on 8/3/2021
References
https://sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders/sleepwalking/

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/parasomnias/sleepwalking