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Sleepwalking Essay

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Sleepwalking

Somnambulism, or sleepwalking, belongs to a group of parasomnias. This disorder of arousal is characterized by complex motor behaviors initiated during stages 3 and 4 of non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep (slow-wave sleep) (3). Behaviors during sleepwalking episodes can vary greatly. Some episodes are limited to sitting up, fumbling and getting dressed, while others include more complex behaviors such as walking, driving a car, or preparing a meal (2). After awakening, the sleepwalker usually has no recollection of what has happened and may appear confused and disoriented. The behaviors performed while sleepwalking are said to be autonomous automatisms. These are nonrelfex actions performed without conscious volition and
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This stage is believed to help people enter deeper stages of sleep (4). Stage 3 sleep consists of 20-50 percent delta activity and stage 4 sleep of more than 50 percents delta activity (4). Stages 3 and 4 are characterized as being slow wave sleep in addition to being the deepest levels of sleep. Approximately 90 minutes after being asleep, people enter rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep (4). REM sleep consists of rapid eye movements, a desynchronized EEG, sensitivity to external stimulation, muscle paralysis and dreaming (4).

Sleepwalking occurs during stages 3 and 4 of the sleep cycle, the deepest levels of sleep. This slow-wave sleep is normally characterized by synchronized EEG activity (4). This indicates that mental activity is very low during these stages of sleep. However researchers have shown that the EEG of a sleepwalker has diffuse, rhythmic, high-voltage bursts of delta activity associated with abrupt motor activity (1). This is very different from the EEG activity normally associated with slow-wave sleep. In addition to the EEG results, they found that there is a decrease in regional cerebral blood flow in the frontopariental cortices during sleepwalking (1). This indicates that sleepwalking is a dissociated state consisting of motor arousal and persisting mind sleep, which seems to arise from the selective activation of thalamocingulate circuits and the persisting inhibition of other thalamocortical arousal systems (3).
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