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Somnambulism – causes, side effects and treatments at

Saturday, June 30, 2018 by

Somnambulism is a sleep disorder that is also called sleepwalking. As the name implies, a somnambulist walks in their sleep. Sometimes, the patient may talk but they may not always make sense.

A patient’s eyes can remain open while they sleepwalk, but their eyes can’t really “see” or they might just ignore you. The disorder is common during early childhood and it is less common during adolescence.

Known symptoms of somnambulism

The signs of somnambulism usually include:

  • Having a hazy recollection of/being unable to remember the sleepwalking incident, along with any physical activities performed
  • Inability to be aroused/stimulated during an episode
  • Sleep talking
  • The sleepwalking duration may vary (e.g. it can last faster than one minute or longer than 30 minutes)
  • Staring blankly as they wander around the place/house

Risk factors for somnambulism may include:

  1. Environmental factors – Alcohol intoxication, chaotic sleep schedules, fever, magnesium deficiency, and sleep deprivation may trigger sleepwalking. Meanwhile, drugs like antihistamines, minor tranquilizers, neuroleptics, sedatives/hypnotics, and stimulants can increase your chance of developing somnambulism.
  2. Inherited/genetic factors – According to a study, sleepwalking is ten times more likely to occur if a first-degree relative has a history of the sleep disorder.
  3. Physiologic and medical factors – Physiologic factors that may contribute to sleepwalking include conditions like arrhythmias, fever, gastroesophageal reflux, menstruation, nighttime asthma, nighttime seizures, obstructive sleep apnea, pregnancy, or psychiatric disorders (like dissociative states [e.g., multiple personality disorder], panic attacks, or post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]).

Body systems harmed by somnambulism

Somnambulism may cause the following complications:

  • A child with somnambulism may have behavioral and emotional issues at home and school.
  • An increase in bed-wetting incidents.
  • Getting injured during a sleepwalking episode.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent somnambulism

The following foods or nutrients can help prevent somnambulism or address its symptoms:

  • Calcium and magnesium – A deficiency for these two minerals can negatively affect your sleep. Calcium-rich foods include cheese, leafy greens, milk, and yogurt. Foods that contain magnesium include beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3s can help you sleep better at night. Sources include fatty fish like tuna and wild salmon.
  • Tea – Sleep-promoting teas can help you fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer. Drink teas like California poppy (can help ease anxiety, promote relaxation, and leave you with a feeling of general lethargy), chamomile (helps promote a feeling of calmness that can ease anxiety and insomnia), passion flower (this tropical flower acts as a mild sedative), St. John’s wort (often used to address the symptoms of depression like anxiety and insomnia), and valerian (the root has sedative properties that can treat insomnia, restlessness, and nervousness).
  • Tryptophan – Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body needs to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin. The body then requires serotonin to feel sleepy. Consume more tryptophan-rich foods like beans, cheese, chicken, eggs, fish, lentils, nuts, oats, quinoa, seeds, tofu, and turkey.

Treatments, management plans for somnambulism

There is no specific treatment for somnambulism since most patients outgrow the disorder. While medications like antidepressants, hypnotics, or sedatives can help reduce the incidences of sleepwalking in some patients, improving sleep habits are a better option.

Certain lifestyle changes that can also help the patient control their sleepwalking include:

  • Avoiding the use of alcohol or depressants, especially if you are a regular sleepwalker.
  • Minimizing anxiety or stress as much as possible.
  • Sleeping at a manageable time to avoid unstable sleep schedules. This helps prevent insomnia and sleep deprivation.

Where to learn more


Somnambulism is a sleep disorder that is also called sleepwalking.

The signs of somnambulism usually include the inability to be aroused/stimulated during an episode and sleep talking.

Somnambulism may cause complications like an increase in bed-wetting incidents and getting injured during a sleepwalking episode.

Calcium and magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, tea, and tryptophan can help prevent somnambulism or address its symptoms.

There is no specific treatment for somnambulism since most patients outgrow the disorder.

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