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Few Tips to Improve Your Slumber Tonight

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Sleep is important for your physical and emotional health. Sleep may help you stay healthy by keeping your immune system strong. Getting enough sleep can help your mood and make you feel less stressed.

But we all have trouble sleeping sometimes. This can be for many reasons. You may have trouble sleeping because of depression, insomnia, fatigue, or Sjögren’s syndrome. If you are depressed, feel anxious, or have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you may have trouble falling or staying asleep.

Whatever the cause, there are things you can do:

Your sleeping area :
•Use your bedroom only for sleeping
•Move the TV out of your bedroom
•Keep your bedroom quiet and dark
Your evening and bedtime routine

•Get regular exercise — but not within 3 to 4 hours before bedtime
•Create a relaxing bedtime routine
•Go to bed at the same time every night
•Consider using a sleep mask and earplugs
If you can’t sleep
•Imagine yourself in a peaceful, pleasant place
•Don’t drink any liquids after 6 PM if waking up during the night to go to the bathroom is a problem


Your activities during the day
Your habits and activities can affect how well you sleep. Here are some tips.
•Exercise during the day. Don’t exercise after 5 p.m. because it may be harder to fall asleep.
•Get outside during daylight hours. Spending time in sunlight helps to reset your body’s sleep and wake cycles.
•Don’t drink or eat anything that has caffeine in it, such as coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate.
•Don’t drink alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol can cause you to wake up more often during the night.
•Don’t smoke or use tobacco, especially in the evening. Nicotine can keep you awake.
•Don’t take naps during the day, especially close to bedtime.
•Don’t take medicine that may keep you awake, or make you feel hyper or energized, right before bed. Your doctor can tell you if your medicine may do this and if you can take it earlier in the day.

If you can’t sleep because you are in great pain or have an injury, you often feel anxious at night, or you often have bad dreams or nightmares, talk to your doctor.

Source: Health.com April 24, 2008

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Nod Off to Take Off

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Your brain will function better after a good siesta, say researchers.

If you are a teacher and catch students napping in your class, fret not. The youngsters may not learn what you teach, but will certainly grasp the next lecture very well. This was the conclusion of some sleep researchers, unveiled at a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego. Napping during the day not only consolidates memory but also improves the brain. The activity is necessary not just for babies; it’s important for adults and old people too, say researchers.

Matthew Walker of the University of California in Berkeley investigated the effect of long afternoon naps on students’ learning ability. His team found that the more you remain awake during the day, the more the brain loses its ability to learn.

At the University of Arizona, professor of psychology Lynn Nadel and his team investigated the effect of napping on babies, and came to the same conclusion — babies learn to abstract better when they nap.

At the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Marcos Frank found something more fundamental — the brain reorganises itself during sleep, and this reorganisation is essential to learning.

Together, neuroscientists are learning new facets of this seemingly passive activity. The brain does not switch off during sleep. In fact, it remains active, in a different way from when you are awake.

“Sleep is a far more complex activity than we thought,” says Walker. What his research shows now is that the brain has a limited short-term memory capacity, and it needs sleep to free up this space frequently by sending some facts to long-term memory. And it can perform this activity only during sleep. This much is now clear, but things get a bit murky after that.

Walker experimented with 40 volunteers, half of whom took a 90-minute nap in the afternoon. When the two teams learned things at noon and at 6pm, the team that did not nap performed much worse the second time.

“We chose a 90-minute nap to provide for a full sleep cycle,” says Walker. This cycle includes stages of rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. REM is a dream state of sleep, and was long thought to be the most important phase of sleep. Non-REM sleep is in three stages — 1, 2 and deep sleep. Memory consolidation occurs during stage 2 non-REM sleep, which during the night constitutes 50 per cent of our sleep cycle.

You enter stage 2 non-REM sleep within 15 minutes of falling asleep, and the brain remains in this state for another 40-50 minutes. So for a nap to really enhance learning, it needs to last an hour.

“We do not know yet whether shorter naps are enough,” says Walker. The scientist also hints at another fascinating aspect of sleep — many older people are known to sleep less, and this could be one reason why they have poorer memories. We would know this in the future, when scientists investigate the mechanisms behind sleep and learning.

At the University of Arizona, Nadel and his team tried to investigate the effect of naps on 15-month-old babies. They created an artificial language, with nonsense sounds but having a close relationship structurally — like subject-verb agreement — with English. Like in the Berkeley experiment, babies in this exercise learned before and after naps. Those who napped were able to translate their previous learning to understand what they learned after the naps. In other words, they were able to generalise their knowledge of sentence structure to understand new phrases better.

What they found was slightly different from the Berkeley team’s finding but was equally important. If babies nap within a specific period after learning a new task, they learned to abstract better.

This kind of learning, the ability to detect patterns in a piece of information, is vital to learning many things in later life. Napping is effective only if it happens within four hours of learning. Babies thus need to nap to understand what they learn during the day.

While these are significant findings, Marcos Frank found something fundamental — the young brain grows more connections during sleep. Frank’s earlier research had indicated that the brain was fundamentally different during sleep from during wakefulness.

This difference is in aspects: electrochemical activity, proteins synthesised and biochemical activity. In early development, during the first five years of one’s life, this reorganisation during sleep becomes critical to its capabilities in later life. “We have some evidence that what happens during early years cannot be acquired in later life,” says Frank.

What this means is clear enough. Babies who are deprived of sleep can develop brains that are deficient. While this may not happen for healthy babies, many who suffer from sleep apnea — a disease where you wake up periodically — can have poorly-developed brains by adulthood.

However, while the research shows how important sleep is for our brains, we still do not know everything about this vital daily exercise. It still remains a puzzle, and hopefully the next few years will throw more light on it.

Source: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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7 Steps to Start Lucid Dreaming

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Studying your dreams can teach you many things about yourself. The state of dreaming can arguably be viewed as the ultimate form of meditation.
…………..CLICK & SEE
Dreams bring your subconscious mind to the forefront, and can convey information about your health, relationships, and other matters. For example, they may offer symbolic images that tell you about biological processes going on inside your body, and what you need to do to stay healthy.

Lucid Dreaming is consciously being aware within your dream.

When you are dreaming and you become conscious that you are dreaming you can start to control your dreams. It can be an exhilarating experience, and the feeling of euphoria after your first few lucid dreams can last for days.

1. Remember your ordinary dreams.
To start remembering your dreams try this simple technique — each night before drifting off to sleep, repeat the phrase ‘I will remember my dreams as soon as I wake up’. Say this phrase over and over until you fall asleep, after a few days you will start to remember your ordinary dreams.

2. Keep a dream journal
Even writing a few short sentences about your dream is enough. This will get you into the habit of remembering your ordinary dreams and to start looking for dream signs within your dreams.

3. Pick out dream signs

A lot of your ordinary dreams will have objects or people in them that could act as a cue to you waking up in your dreams.

4. Notice your waking world
To be conscious in your dream world means you have to be conscious in your waking world. Being consciously focused means looking around you and saying what you see, feel, hear, smell and touch and voicing it. If you start to consciously focus on the world around you, you will carry this over into the dream world.

5. Ask yourself; ‘Am I dreaming?’
Ask yourself just now ‘Am I dreaming?’. Your obvious answer is to say no, of course you are not dreaming. How do you know? Try and think about why you know you are not dreaming. This again will carry over into your dreaming world and you will start asking the same questions in your dreams.

6. Your first lucid dream
Many people have their first lucid dream simply by reading about it. You might find that you become over-excited and lose the lucid dream. However, your first lucid dream will be remembered for years to come.

7. Staying lucid
By far the best technique is calming yourself down with self talk and dream spinning. If you find that you are losing your lucidity, you can talk to yourself to calm yourself down and just start noticing the things around you in your dream. Dream spinning means when you feel you are losing control of your dream, you mentally spin like a tornado to stay within your dream. This focuses your mind on staying lucid.

Source: Lifehack August 25, 2009

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Narcolepsy

Definition:
Narcolepsy is chronic sleep disorder, or dyssomnia. The condition is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) in which a person experiences extreme fatigue and possibly falls asleep at inappropriate times, such as whilst at work or at school. A narcoleptic will most probably experience disturbed nocturnal sleep and also abnormal daytime sleep pattern, which is often confused with insomnia. When a person with narcolepsy falls asleep or goes to bed they will generally experience the 4th stage of sleep REM (rapid eye movement/dreaming state), within 10 minutes; whereas for most people, this shouldn’t occur until generally 30 minutes of slumber.
.CLICK & SEE
Cataplexy, a sudden muscular weakness brought on by strong emotions (in most cases, there are many people who will experience cataplexy without having a emotional trigger), is known to be one of the other problems that some narcoleptics will experience. Often manifesting as muscular weaknesses ranging from a barely perceptible slackening of the facial muscles to the dropping of the jaw or head, weakness at the knees, or a total collapse. Usually only speech is slurred, vision is impaired (double vision, inability to focus), but hearing and awareness remain normal. In some rare cases, an individual’s body becomes paralyzed and muscles will become stiff.

The term narcolepsy derives from the French word narcolepsie created by the French physician Jean-Baptiste-Édouard Gélineau by combining the Greek narke numbness, stupor and lepsis attack, seizure.

Symptoms
The main characteristic of narcolepsy is excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), even after adequate night time sleep. A person with narcolepsy is likely to become drowsy or fall asleep, often at inappropriate times and places. Daytime naps may occur with little warning and may be physically irresistible. These naps can occur several times a day. They are typically refreshing, but only for a few hours. Drowsiness may persist for prolonged periods of time. In addition, night time sleep may be fragmented with frequent awakenings.

Four other classic symptoms of the disorder, often referred to as the “tetrad of narcolepsy,” are cataplexy, sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations, and automatic behavior. These symptoms may not occur in all patients. Cataplexy is an episodic condition featuring loss of muscle function, ranging from slight weakness (such as limpness at the neck or knees, sagging facial muscles, or inability to speak clearly) to complete body collapse. Episodes may be triggered by sudden emotional reactions such as laughter, anger, surprise, or fear, and may last from a few seconds to several minutes. The person remains conscious throughout the episode. In some cases, cataplexy may resemble epileptic seizures. Sleep paralysis is the temporary inability to talk or move when waking (or less often, falling asleep). It may last a few seconds to minutes. This is often frightening but is not dangerous. Hypnagogic hallucinations are vivid, often frightening, dreamlike experiences that occur while dozing, falling asleep and/or while awakening.

Automatic behavior means that a person continues to function (talking, putting things away, etc.) during sleep episodes, but awakens with no memory of performing such activities. It is estimated that up to 40 percent of people with narcolepsy experience automatic behavior during sleep episodes. Sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations also occur in people who do not have narcolepsy, but more frequently in people who are suffering from extreme lack of sleep. Cataplexy is generally considered to be unique to narcolepsy and is analogous to sleep paralysis in that the usually protective paralysis mechanism occurring during sleep is inappropriately activated. The opposite of this situation (failure to activate this protective paralysis) occurs in rapid eye movement behavior disorder.

In most cases, the first symptom of narcolepsy to appear is excessive and overwhelming daytime sleepiness. The other symptoms may begin alone or in combination months or years after the onset of the daytime naps. There are wide variations in the development, severity, and order of appearance of cataplexy, sleep paralysis, and hypnagogic hallucinations in individuals. Only about 20 to 25 percent of people with narcolepsy experience all four symptoms. The excessive daytime sleepiness generally persists throughout life, but sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations may not.

Although these are the common symptoms of narcolepsy, many people with narcolepsy also suffer from insomnia for extended periods of time. The symptoms of narcolepsy, especially the excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy, often become severe enough to cause serious problems in a person’s social, personal, and professional life. Normally, when an individual is awake, brain waves show a regular rhythm. When a person first falls asleep, the brain waves become slower and less regular. This sleep state is called non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. After about an hour and a half of NREM sleep, the brain waves begin to show a more active pattern again. This sleep state, called REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep), is when most remembered dreaming occurs. Associated with the EEG-observed waves during REM sleep, muscle atonia is present (called REM atonia).

In narcolepsy, the order and length of NREM and REM sleep periods are disturbed, with REM sleep occurring at sleep onset instead of after a period of NREM sleep. Thus, narcolepsy is a disorder in which REM sleep appears at an abnormal time. Also, some of the aspects of REM sleep that normally occur only during sleep — lack of muscular control, sleep paralysis, and vivid dreams — occur at other times in people with narcolepsy. For example, the lack of muscular control can occur during wakefulness in a cataplexy episode; it is said that there is intrusion of REM atonia during wakefulness. Sleep paralysis and vivid dreams can occur while falling asleep or waking up. Simply put, the brain does not pass through the normal stages of dozing and deep sleep but goes directly into (and out of) rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

This has several consequences. Night time sleep does not include as much deep sleep, so the brain tries to “catch up” during the day, hence EDS. People with narcolepsy may visibly fall asleep at unpredicted moments (such motions as head bobbing are common). People with narcolepsy fall quickly into what appears to be very deep sleep, and they wake up suddenly and can be disoriented when they do (dizziness is a common occurrence). They have very vivid dreams, which they often remember in great detail. People with narcolepsy may dream even when they only fall asleep for a few seconds.

Causes
Although the cause of narcolepsy was not determined for many years after its discovery, scientists had discovered conditions that seemed to be associated with an increase in an individual’s risk of having the disorder. Specifically, there appeared to be a strong link between narcoleptic individuals and certain genetic conditions. One factor that seemed to predispose an individual to narcolepsy involved an area of Chromosome 6 known as the HLA complex. There appeared to be a correlation between narcoleptic individuals and certain variations in HLA genes, although it was not required for the condition to occur. Certain variations in the HLA complex were thought to increase the risk of an auto-immune response to protein-producing neurons in the brain. The protein produced, called hypocretin or orexin, is responsible for controlling appetite and sleep patterns. Individuals with narcolepsy often have reduced numbers of these protein-producing neurons in their brains. In 2009 the autoimmune hypothesis was supported by research carried out at Stanford University School of Medicine.

The neural control of normal sleep states and the relationship to narcolepsy are only partially understood. In humans, narcoleptic sleep is characterized by a tendency to go abruptly from a waking state to REM sleep with little or no intervening non-REM sleep. The changes in the motor and proprioceptive systems during REM sleep have been studied in both human and animal models. During normal REM sleep, spinal and brainstem alpha motor neuron depolarization produces almost complete atonia of skeletal muscles via an inhibitory descending reticulospinal pathway. Acetylcholine may be one of the neurotransmitters involved in this pathway. In narcolepsy, the reflex inhibition of the motor system seen in cataplexy is believed identical to that seen in normal REM sleep.

In 2004 researchers in Australia induced narcolepsy-like symptoms in mice by injecting them with antibodies from narcoleptic humans. The research has been published in the Lancet providing strong evidence suggesting that some cases of narcolepsy might be caused by autoimmune disease. Narcolepsy is strongly associated with HLA-DQB1*0602 genotype. There is also an association with HLA-DR2 and HLA-DQ1. This may represent linkage disequilibrium. Despite the experimental evidence in human narcolepsy that there may be an inherited basis for at least some forms of narcolepsy, the mode of inheritance remains unknown. Some cases are associated with genetic diseases such as Niemann-Pick disease or Prader-Willi syndrome.

How common is narcolepsy
The prevalence of narcolepsy is similar to that of Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. In the United States, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates narcolepsy affects one in every 2,000 people. However, in some countries (for example, Israel), the prevalence of narcolepsy is much lower (one per 500,000) while in other countries (for example, Japan), it is much higher (one per 600). The American Sleep Association estimates that approximately 125,000 to 200,000 Americans suffer from narcolepsy, but only fewer than 50,000 are properly diagnosed.

Narcolepsy often remains undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for several years. This may occur because physicians do not consider the diagnosis of narcolepsy frequently enough. They may think of narcolepsy only in people who have the main symptom of excessive daytime sleepiness. Narcolepsy may not be considered in the evaluation of patients who come to doctors complaining of fatigue, tiredness, or problems with concentration, attention, memory, and performance, and other illnesses (seizures, mental illness, etc.).
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Narcolepsy has its typical onset in adolescence and young adulthood. There is an average 15-year delay between onset and correct diagnosis which may contribute substantially to the disabling features of the disorder. Cognitive, educational, occupational, and psychosocial problems associated with the excessive daytime sleepiness of narcolepsy have been documented. For these to occur in the crucial teen years when education, development of self-image, and development of occupational choice are taking place is especially damaging. While cognitive impairment does occur, it may only be a reflection of the excessive daytime somnolence.

The prevalence of narcolepsy is about 1 per 2,000 persons. It is a reason for patient visits to sleep disorder centers, and with its onset in adolescence, it is also a major cause of learning difficulty and absenteeism from school. Normal teenagers often already experience excessive daytime sleepiness because of a maturational increase in physiological sleep tendency accentuated by multiple educational and social pressures; this may be disabling with the addition of narcolepsy symptoms in susceptible teenagers. In clinical practice, the differentiation between narcolepsy and other conditions characterized by excessive somnolence may be difficult. Treatment options are currently limited. There is a paucity in the literature of controlled double-blind studies of possible effective drugs or other forms of therapy. Mechanisms of action of some of the few available therapeutic agents have been explored but detailed studies of mechanisms of action are needed before new classes of therapeutic agents can be developed. Narcolepsy is an underdiagnosed condition in the general population. This is partly because its severity varies from obvious to barely noticeable. Some people with narcolepsy do not suffer from loss of muscle control. Others may only feel sleepy in the evenings.

Diagnosis
Diagnosis is relatively easy when all the symptoms of narcolepsy are present, but if the sleep attacks are isolated and cataplexy is mild or absent, diagnosis is more difficult. It is also possible for cataplexy to occur in isolation. Two tests that are commonly used in diagnosing narcolepsy are the polysomnogram and the multiple sleep latency test (MSLT). These tests are usually performed by a sleep specialist. The polysomnogram involves continuous recording of sleep brain waves and a number of nerve and muscle functions during nighttime sleep. When tested, people with narcolepsy fall asleep rapidly, enter REM sleep early, and may awaken often during the night. The polysomnogram also helps to detect other possible sleep disorders that could cause daytime sleepiness.

For the multiple sleep latency test, a person is given a chance to sleep every 2 hours during normal wake times. Observations are made of the time taken to reach various stages of sleep (sleep onset latency). This test measures the degree of daytime sleepiness and also detects how soon REM sleep begins. Again, people with narcolepsy fall asleep rapidly and enter REM sleep early.
You may click to learn more     http://www.medicinenet.com/narcolepsy/page4.htm

Treatment
Treatment is tailored to the individual, based on symptoms and therapeutic response. The time required to achieve optimal control of symptoms is highly variable, and may take several months or longer. Medication adjustments are also frequently necessary, and complete control of symptoms is seldom possible. While oral medications are the mainstay of formal narcolepsy treatment, lifestyle changes are also important.

The main treatment of excessive daytime sleepiness in narcolepsy is with a group of drugs called central nervous system stimulants such as methylphenidate, racemic – amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, and methamphetamine, or modafinil, a new stimulant with a different pharmacologic mechanism. In Fall 2007 an alert for severe adverse skin reactions to modafinil was issued by the FDA.  Other medications used are codeine and selegiline. Another drug that is used is atomoxetine (Strattera), a non-stimulant and Norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (NRI), that has little or no abuse potential. In many cases, planned regular short naps can reduce the need for pharmacological treatment of the EDS to a low or non-existent level.

Cataplexy and other REM-sleep symptoms are frequently treated with tricyclic antidepressants such as clomipramine, imipramine, or protriptyline, as well as other drugs that suppress REM sleep. Venlafaxine, a newer antidepressant which blocks the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, has shown usefulness in managing symptoms of cataplexy[citation needed]. Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), a medication recently approved by the FDA, is the only medication specifically indicated for cataplexy. Gamma-hydroxybutyrate has also been shown to reduce symptoms of EDS associated with narcolepsy. While the exact mechanism of action is unknown, GHB is thought to improve the quality of nocturnal sleep.

In addition to drug therapy, an important part of treatment is scheduling short naps (10 to 15 minutes) two to three times per day to help control excessive daytime sleepiness and help the person stay as alert as possible. Daytime naps are not a replacement for nighttime sleep. Ongoing communication between the health care provider, patient, and the patient’s family members is important for optimal management of narcolepsy. Finally, a recent study reported that transplantation of hypocretin neurons into the pontine reticular formation in rats is feasible, indicating the development of alternative therapeutic strategies in addition to pharmacological interventions.

Learning as much about narcolepsy as possible and developing a support system or finding a support group may help patients and families deal with the practical and emotional effects of the disorder, possible occupational limitations, and situations that might cause injury. Individuals with narcolepsy should avoid jobs that require driving long distances or handling hazardous equipment or that require alertness for lengthy periods. They may find it helps to take a nap before driving if possible or have a scheduled nap break during a long driving trip.
Click to learn more-> 1.Medication 2.Non Medication treatment

The National Sleep Foundation, University at Buffalo, and Mayo Clinic suggest it may help sufferers if they alert their employers, co-workers and friends in the hope that others will accommodate their condition and help when needed. The foundation say it may help if the sufferer breaks up larger tasks into small pieces and focuses on one small thing at a time, and if they carry a tape recorder, if possible, to record important conversations and meetings. The clinics say taking several short walks during the day may help sufferers.

What’s in the future for narcolepsy?

The discovery that a lack of hypocretins in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may be related to the cause of narcolepsy could lead to the development of tests to determine the level of hypocretins in the CSF. Such tests could help in the diagnosis of narcolepsy. The expectation is that these tests will be simple (drawing blood), and will reflect the level of hypocretins in the CSF. In addition, the discovery of the role of hypocretins in the development of narcolepsy may lead to the development of new drugs for the treatment of narcolepsy.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.


Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcolepsy
http://www.medicinenet.com/narcolepsy/article.htm

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Sleepwalking(Somnambulism)

Definition:
Sleepwalking (also called somnambulism or noctambulism) is a parasomnia or sleep disorder where the sufferer engages in activities that are normally associated with wakefulness while he or she is asleep or in a sleep-like state. Sleepwalking is usually defined by or involves the person affected apparently shifting from his or her prior sleeping position and moving around and performing normal actions as if awake (cleaning, walking and other activities). It is a disorder characterized by walking or other activity while seemingly still asleep.Sleepwalkers are not conscious of their actions on a level where memory of the sleepwalking episode can be recalled, and because of this, unless the sleepwalker is woken or aroused by someone else, this sleep disorder can go unnoticed. Sleepwalking is more commonly experienced in people with high levels of stress, anxiety or psychological factors and in people with genetic factors (family history), or sometimes a combination of both.

click to see the pictures

A common misconception is that sleepwalking is acting out the physical movements within a dream, but in fact, sleepwalking occurs earlier on in the night when rapid eye movement (REM), or the “dream stage” of sleep, has not yet occurred.

A majority of people move their legs while sleeping; however, sleepwalking occurs when both legs move in synchronization[citation needed], which is much less common.

Sleepwalking can affect people of any age. It generally occurs when an individual moves during slow wave sleep (during stage 3 or 4 of slow wave sleep—deep sleep) (Horne, 1992; Kales & Kales, 1975). In children and young adults, up to 80% of the night is spent in SWS (50% in infants). However, this decreases as the person ages, until none can be measured in the geriatric individual. For this reason, children and young adults (or anyone else with a high amount of SWS) are more likely to be woken up and, for the same reasons, they are witnessed to have many more episodes than the older individuals.

Causes:
This causes REM atonia, a state in which the motor neurons are not stimulated, and thus the body’s muscles do not move. Lack of such REM atonia causes REM Behavior Disorder.

The normal sleep cycle involves distinct stages from light drowsiness to deep sleep. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is a different type of sleep, in which the eyes move rapidly and vivid dreaming is most common.

During a night, there will be several cycles of non-REM and REM sleep. Sleep walking (somnambulism) most often occurs during deep non-REM sleep (stage 3 or stage 4 sleep) early in the night. It can occur during REM sleep near morning.

In children, the cause is usually unknown but may be related to fatigue, prior sleep loss, or anxiety. In adults, sleepwalking is usually associated with a disorder of the mind but may also be seen with reactions to drugs and alcohol, and medical conditions such as partial complex seizures. In the elderly, sleepwalking may be a symptom of an organic brain syndrome or REM behavior disorders.

Incidence:

The sleepwalking activity may include simply sitting up and appearing awake while actually asleep, getting up and walking around, or complex activities such as moving furniture, going to the bathroom, dressing and undressing, and similar activities. Some people even drive a car while actually asleep. The episode can be very brief (a few seconds or minutes) or can last for 30 minutes or longer.

One common misconception is that a sleep walker should not be awakened. It is not dangerous to awaken a sleep walker, although it is common for the person to be confused or disoriented for a short time on awakening. Another misconception is that a person cannot be injured when sleep walking.

Sleep walking occurs at any age, but it occurs most often in children aged 6 to 12. It may occur in younger children, in adults, or in the elderly, and it appears to run in families.

Risk Factors:

Sleepwalkers are more likely to endanger themselves than anyone else.Actually, injuries caused by such things as tripping and loss of balance are common for sleep walkers. When sleepwalkers are a danger to themselves or others (for example, when climbing up or down steps or trying to use a potentially dangerous tool such as a stove or a knife), steering them away from the danger and back to bed is advisable. It has even been reported that people have died or were injured as a result of sleepwalking. Sleepwalking should not be confused with psychosis.

Sleepwalking has in rare cases been used as a defense (sometimes successfully) against charges of murder.

Symptoms:

* eyes open during sleep
* may have blank facial expression
* may sit up and appear awake during sleep
* walking during sleep
* other detailed activity during sleep, any sort
* no recall of the event upon awaking
* confusion, disorientation on awakening
* sleep talking is incomprehensible and non-purposeful

Diagnosis:

Usually, no further examination and testing is necessary. If sleepwalking is frequent or persistent, examination to rule out other disorders (such as partial complex seizures) may be appropriate. It may also be appropriate to undergo a psychologic evaluation to determine causes such as excessive anxiety or stress, or medical evaluation to rule out other causes.

Treatment:

Usually no specific treatment for sleepwalking is needed.

Safety measures may be necessary to prevent injury. This may include modifying the environment by moving objects such as electrical cords or furniture to reduce tripping and falling. Stairways may need to be blocked off with a gate.

In some cases, short-acting tranquilizers have been helpful in reducing the incidence of sleepwalking.

For kids who sleepwalk often, doctors may recommend a treatment called scheduled awakening. This disrupts the sleep cycle enough to help stop sleepwalking. In rare cases, a doctor may prescribe medication to help someone sleep.

Prognosis:
Sleepwalking may or may not reduce with age. It usually does not indicate a serious disorder, although it can be a symptom of other disorders.

Prevention:
# Relax at bedtime by listening to soft music or relaxation tapes.
# Have a regular sleep schedule and stick to it.
# Keep noise and lights to a minimum while you’re trying to sleep.
# Avoid the use of alcohol or central nervous system depressants if prone to sleepwalking.
# Avoid fatigue or insomnia, because this can instigate an episode of sleepwalking.
# Avoid or minimize stress, anxiety, and conflict, which can worsen the condition

Statistics:-

* Eighteen percent of the world’s population is prone to sleepwalking.
* Somewhere between 1% and 16.7% of U.S. children sleepwalk, and juveniles are more prone to the activity.[citation needed]
* One study showed that the highest prevalence of sleepwalking was 16.7% for children of 11–12 years of age.[citation needed]
* Males are more likely to sleepwalk than females.[citation needed]

Activities such as eating, bathing, urinating, dressing, driving cars, whistling, and committing murder have been reported or claimed to have occurred during sleepwalking. Contrary to popular belief, most cases of sleepwalking do not consist of walking around (without the conscious knowledge of the subject). Most cases of somnambulism occur when the person is awakened (something or someone disturbs their SWS); the person may sit up, look around and immediately go back to sleep. But these kinds of incidences are rarely noticed or reported unless recorded in a sleep clinic.[citation needed]

Sleepwalkers engage in their activities with their eyes open so they can navigate their surroundings, not with their eyes closed and their arms outstretched, as often parodied in cartoons and films. The subject’s eyes may have a glazed or empty appearance, and if questioned, the subject will be slow to answer and may be unable to respond in an intelligible manner.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:

http://www.medicinenet.com/sleepwalking/article.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleepwalking
http://kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/body/sleepwalking.html

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