Violent Behavior in Many Adult Sleepwalkers: Study

Those with disorder risk injury, fatigue and other health problems, researchers report

From the WebMD Archives

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- Adults don't always outgrow sleepwalking, and among those who don't, 58 percent may become violent and sometimes injure either themselves or their sleeping partner, a new study shows.

Not only that, these sleepwalkers suffer a host of health problems during their waking hours, the researchers noted.

"Daytime sleepiness is a frequent problem in adults affected with sleepwalking," said study author Dr. Yves Dauvilliers, director of the sleep lab at Gui-de-Chauliac Hospital in Montpelier, France.

That's among the more obvious problems, he said. They also may experience depression, anxiety and lower quality of life.

Injuries, both to sleepwalkers and their bed partners, happen 17 percent of the time, Dauvilliers said. "Some patients have jumped out of windows," he said. "Some have walked on the house roof. And others fell down the stairs, with legs broken."

The study is published in the March issue of the journal Sleep.

For the research, Dauvilliers evaluated 100 adult sleepwalkers who came to the hospital sleep disorders clinic. The median age was 30. They were all evaluated on video one night in the sleep lab. The patients answered questions about any problems with sleep, fatigue, anxiety, depression and overall quality of life.

The patients also divulged details on possible known triggers for sleepwalking, such as stress, strong emotions, drinking alcohol or engaging in intense physical activity in the evening.

The researchers also interviewed 100 healthy people who did not sleepwalk and compared the results.

Of the sleepwalkers, nearly 23 percent did so nightly and 43.5 percent did it weekly. The median age for starting the habit was 9 years. More than half reported a family history of sleepwalking.

Compared to those who didn't sleepwalk, the sleepwalkers were more likely to have daytime sleepiness, fatigue, insomnia, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and to feel their quality of life was lower.

In 17 percent of patients who became violent while asleep, medical care was needed for at least one episode of such behavior. The researchers defined violent behavior as "physically aggressive or potentially dangerous behaviors for patients and co-sleepers." They noted that for six patients (five males), a bed partner needed medical care after being attacked.

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