Why Sleepwalkers Need Regular Sleep

Sleep Deprivation May Make Sleepwalkers More Likely to Foot It

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on March 19, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

March 19, 2008 -- Sleepwalkers may want to take extra care to make sure they get enough sleep. New research shows that when sleep deprived, sleep walkers are more likely to sleepwalk.

That finding comes from a Canadian study of 40 sleepwalkers.

The study supports recommendations for sleepwalkers to "maintain a regular sleep cycle and avoid sleep deprivation," write the University of Montreal's Antonio Zadra, PhD, and colleagues.

The sleepwalkers in Zadra's study spent a night at a sleep lab. They were videotaped as they slept to record any bouts of sleepwalking. Sleepwalkers typically don't sleepwalk every night.

That night, 20 people sleepwalked, and some of them did so more than once that night, for a total of 32 sleepwalking episodes.

Starting the next morning, the researchers kept participants awake for 25 hours straight to see how sleep deprivation affected the sleepwalkers.

After being awake for 25 hours, participants slept for as long as they wanted at the sleep lab. They hit the hay in the morning, so not only were they weary, they were trying to sleep at an unusual time.

During their catch-up sleep, 36 people sleepwalked for a total of 92 sleepwalking episodes.

Sleep deprivation may encourage sleepwalking in sleepwalkers, Zadra and colleagues conclude.

This study didn't include a comparison group of people who've never sleepwalked. But in their past work, Zadra's team found that healthy people with no history of sleepwalking weren't more likely to sleepwalk when sleep deprived.

The new study appears in the March edition of the Annals of Neurology.

(Are you a sleep walker? Have you always been or do you think something, like sleep deprivation, triggered you? Tell us about it on WebMD's Sleep Disorders: Michael Breus, PhD, ABSM, message board.)