It’s 2 a.m., you’re woken up by your better half who, mute, wanders around your room. Staring blankly, she vaguely answers your questions in a monotonous tone. A priori, either your relationship has deteriorated to the point that she is deliberately ignoring you, or she is completely sleepwalking. And it’s creepy. So you ask yourself a few questions.
1. Is it really dangerous to wake someone up in the middle of a seizure?
We tend to think that waking up a sleepwalker in the middle of a seizure is to risk blowing a hose and ruining his brain for good. However, there is no neurological risk associated with waking a sleepwalker. In fact, the sleeper is in a deep sleep phase and the fact of bringing him out of it by shaking him, for example, can surprise him and potentially make him react a little violently or awkwardly. So you have to be nice to him, even if he stuffed you well all night.
2. What’s the craziest thing you can do while sleepwalking?
Most people just go to their kitchen, wander around their apartment, looking haggard, aimlessly. Some swallow large amounts of food and sometimes have sexual behavior that can be violent (sexonomy). And then in the category of very extreme sleepwalkers, we know the story of Ken Parks who traveled nearly 23km to kill his in-laws and who realized it when he woke up, going directly to the police to confess his crime. A most sordid story.
3. What were the different interpretations of somnambulism in the past?
In the Middle Ages, somnambulism is assimilated to a state of possession. The subject is possessed by a spirit, we do not conceive that he is in fact unconscious. In the 18th century, it would seem that people were more and more familiar with the notion of somnambulism. Without being able to define its contours precisely, Shakespeare gives us a more sober picture where we are far from the highly fantasized conception of remote times. It is that of Lady Macbeth in the eponymous play where the latter, clearly remorseful and under the eyes of witnesses, rubs her hands hoping to draw the blood of a man whose assassination she ordered at the beginning of the work. She even admits it explicitly.
4. Are there factors provoking the sleepwalking attack?
If they are not genetic, they are essentially psychological factors. For example, children prone to night terrors will be more likely to have such seizures. Later, in adults, periods of stress and anxiety or post-trauma will exacerbate this type of nocturnal behavior.
5. Can you communicate with a sleepwalker?
He is in a state of dissociated wakefulness: some parts of his brain are completely asleep and others are not. In fact, it will not pick up much of your sentences if you try to speak with it. His face will not really express emotion and it will be difficult for him to formulate answers other than monosyllabic. His ability to judge is markedly impaired. Nevertheless, it is possible to communicate (very briefly) with him and if you wish to help him not to murder you, for example, you can kindly invite him to return to his bed. We are not sure that he will listen to you but always try.
6. Are our eyes open? If yes, why ?
Most of the time, the representation that we have of the sleepwalker is that of a half-living zombie who drools everywhere and advances with both arms outstretched and eyes closed. But the reality is quite different. Often sleepwalking people have their eyes open and they’re gesticulating like anyone else, they’re just completely west. But let’s say that to make a more accurate representation of it, you have to imagine a person who has woken up very badly, completely in the coaltar and who has absolutely no desire to interact with you. And we understand why.
7. Which profiles are the quickest to sleepwalk?
It is rather children between 6 and 12 years old and surprisingly boys who are 7 times more likely to be. I have not found any justification for this so if by chance you have one, do not hesitate to let us know. Moreover, the peak of somnambulism is reached around 10 years old. So you know what to do on your son’s 10th birthday: we lock him in his double tower room. In adults, it is the very anxious or the people prone to insomnia who will tend to adopt this kind of behavior.
8. Do you remember what you did after a sleepwalking attack?
Sleepwalkers are certainly struck with amnesia, especially young children. But in adults, it is common for the subject to remember what he did and the (often) absurd reasons that justified his actions. Contrary to popular belief, the behaviors are not automatisms but the sleepwalker acts in coherence with what moves him at the moment of the crisis.
9. What happens in our brain when we sleepwalk?
It’s a bit of a mess. The cortex which is the part of the brain governing consciousness and memory is in slow activity. In fact, somnambulism belongs to a category of parasomnia (sleep disorders involving movements, emotions and perceptions) that occur during the deep sleep phase. The subject is right in his dream, he does not necessarily react to the world around him. On the other hand, the thalamo-cortical system, which is supposed to slow down and stop the messages sent by the motor cortex, is partially inactive. As a result, the body receives distorted information and takes action.
10. Is it genetic?
According to a study by a team of Canadian researchers in the 2000s, if one of your parents is a sleepwalker, you are three times more likely to be too. And if both of your parents are or have been, the likelihood that you will start scrolling through the halls of your apartment or house is double. Small family dinner in the cellar at 4am. Good atmosphere.
We hope you’ve learned a bit by now and that the next time your significant other has a sleepwalking fit, you’ll avoid knocking them out with a shovel. A 1 is dangerous and a 2 might scare him a little. And U.S. too.
Source: Health on the net, Sleep.org