'Violent Behavior' Occurs in Many Adult Sleepwalkers, Study Finds 03/08/13
FRIDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- Adults don't always outgrow
sleepwalking, and among those who don't, 58 percent may become
violent and sometimes injure either themselves or their sleeping
partner, a new study shows.
Not only that, these sleepwalkers suffer a host of health
problems during their waking hours, the researchers noted.
"Daytime sleepiness is a frequent problem in adults affected with sleepwalking," said study author Dr. Yves Dauvilliers, director of the sleep lab at Gui-de-Chauliac Hospital in Montpelier, France.
That's among the more obvious problems, he said. They also may
experience depression, anxiety and lower quality of life.
Injuries, both to sleepwalkers and their bed partners, happen 17
percent of the time, Dauvilliers said. "Some patients have jumped
out of windows," he said. "Some have walked on the house roof. And
others fell down the stairs, with legs broken."
The study is published in the March issue of the journal
For the research, Dauvilliers evaluated 100 adult sleepwalkers
who came to the hospital sleep disorders clinic. The median age was
30. They were all evaluated on video one night in the sleep lab.
The patients answered questions about any problems with sleep,
fatigue, anxiety, depression and overall quality of life.
The patients also divulged details on possible known triggers
for sleepwalking, such as stress, strong emotions, drinking alcohol
or engaging in intense physical activity in the evening.
The researchers also interviewed 100 healthy people who did not
sleepwalk and compared the results.
Of the sleepwalkers, nearly 23 percent did so nightly and 43.5
percent did it weekly. The median age for starting the habit was 9
years. More than half reported a family history of
Compared to those who didn't sleepwalk, the sleepwalkers were
more likely to have daytime sleepiness, fatigue, insomnia, symptoms
of anxiety and depression, and to feel their quality of life was
In 17 percent of patients who became violent while asleep,
medical care was needed for at least one episode of such behavior.
The researchers defined violent behavior as "physically aggressive
or potentially dangerous behaviors for patients and co-sleepers."
They noted that for six patients (five males), a bed partner needed
medical care after being attacked.
The findings are not a surprise to Dr. Maurice Ohayon, a
professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford
University, who has published his own studies on sleepwalking. In
his research, he has found that about 4 percent of the adult
The sleepwalkers studied by Dauvilliers, he said, are more
severe cases than he found in his look at the general population.
The study patients had been referred to a sleep clinic. Even so, he
said he found some of the same issues with the sleepwalkers he
studied. They often had a family history of the problem, and they
reported depression and the need for sleeping pills due to
How to reduce sleepwalking? People need to avoid the triggers,
Dauvilliers said. Severe cases may require medication such as
benzodiazepines, which are drugs that have sedating effects, he
Ohayon agreed that both medication and paying attention to
habits can help. "For example, reducing stress, keeping a regular
sleep-wake schedule and getting enough sleep" all help, he
Increasing the safety of the environment can also help reduce
injury, Ohayon suggested. "A bell on the door is a good idea,"
Ohayon said, "but it must be loud enough to awaken the
He also advises sleepwalkers to sleep on the ground floor if
possible, to install extra locks on doors and windows, and to
install motion detector alarms.
Dauvilliers reports receiving honoraria and travel expenses from
UCB Pharma, Cephalon, Novartis and Bioprojet. He has been on
advisory boards for UCB and Bioprojet. Co-authors have been
advisors for pharmaceutical companies.
To learn more about sleepwalking, visit the
National Sleep Foundation.
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