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Sleep Disorders and Treatment for Sleepwalking

Medical treatment for sleepwalking is necessary when it's caused by an underlying medical problem. In some instances, medications may be prescribed to control sleepwalking. There are also a number of steps a person can take to lessen the impact of sleepwalking.

Tips to Prevent Sleepwalking

There is no known way to absolutely prevent sleepwalking; however, certain steps can be taken to minimize one's risk. These include:

  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Limit stress. Meditate or do relaxation exercises.
  • Avoid any kind of stimulation (auditory or visual) prior to bedtime.

Tips to Protect Yourself When Sleepwalking

These are steps you can take to prevent harm if and when you do sleepwalk:

  • Keep a safe sleeping environment, free of harmful or sharp objects.
  • Sleep in a bedroom on the ground floor, if possible.
  • Lock the doors and windows.
  • Cover glass windows with heavy drapes.
  • Place an alarm or bell on the bedroom door.

Medical Treatment for Sleepwalking

If sleepwalking is caused by underlying medical conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux, obstructive sleep apnea, seizures, periodic leg movements, or restless legs syndrome, sleepwalking episodes should stop once the underlying medical condition is treated.

Medications may be necessary if the sleepwalker is at risk of injury, if sleepwalking causes significant family disruption or excessive daytime sleepiness, and when other treatment options have not worked.

What medications are used to treat sleepwalking?

Medications that may be useful include:

Drugs can often be discontinued after several weeks without recurrence of sleepwalking. Occasionally, sleepwalking increases briefly after discontinuing the medication.

Other Sleepwalking Treatment Options

Relaxation techniques, mental imagery, and anticipatory awakenings are the preferred treatment options for long-term treatment of people with a sleepwalking disorder. Anticipatory awakenings consist of waking the child or person approximately 15-20 minutes before the usual time of a sleepwalking episode, and then keeping him or her awake through the time during which the episodes usually occur.

Relaxation and mental imagery techniques are most effective when done with the help of an experienced behavioral therapist or hypnotist.

Follow-up with your sleep disorders specialist if symptoms persist, or if injury to self or to others occurs.

What Is the Outlook for Those Who Sleepwalk?

Although disruptive and frightening in the short term, sleepwalking is not usually a serious disorder. The condition can often be treated effectively.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on November 22, 2015

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