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SLEEP DISORDERS Somnambulism is common



Published: Sun, February 9, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



TEENGROWTH.COM

Q. I experience sleepwalking every night. When I go to bed, I always wake up in a different part of the house. Why is this? Is this curable?

A. We want to first assure you that you are not alone and help is available.

Sleepwalking, also called "somnambulism," is a fairly common sleep problem. Sleepwalking is more common in children than in adolescents or adults. It is also more common in males.

Approximately 10 percent to 18 percent of kids between the ages of 5 and 12 will sleepwalk. Sleepwalking may run in families (it has a genetic tendency). If an individual begins to sleepwalk at about age 9, it often lasts into adulthood.

Why does it happen?

Why people sleepwalk is complex and difficult to pinpoint. It may be related to fatigue, anxiety, medications or a medical condition, such as seizures.

Yes, there are ways to treat sleepwalking.

The first thing that must be done is to take safety precautions. Move furniture and electrical cords to avoid tripping. Block off stairways to avoid falling. Make sure you get plenty of rest in case the cause is fatigue. Have a calming routine at bedtime. Relaxation exercises or meditation will help if stress plays a role in your sleepwalking.

Then, because your sleepwalking is every single night, you should make an appointment with your doctor or a sleep specialist. Other reasons to seek medical care for sleepwalking would be:

UViolent episodes during sleepwalking.

USleepwalking includes potentially dangerous activities, such as driving.

UThe sleepwalker has excessive daytime sleepiness.

Your physician may recommend hypnosis, which has been found to be helpful for many people. Your physician might also recommend medication, since benzodiazepines such as diazepam (valium) or lorazepam have proven useful in the treatment of sleepwalking.

XTo have TeenGrowth's board of physicians answer your health question, visit the Web site (http://www.teengrowth.com) or e-mail feedback@teengrowth.com. TeenGrowth is a non-commercial Internet site that focuses exclusively on the educational health issues of adolescents.




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