Sleepwalking Myths and Facts

by Shannon on May 23, 2016 10:32:03 AM


Have you ever encountered a loved one, roommate or friend sleepwalking?  If you have, you have probably wondered if you should wake them or not.  With all the myths surrounding sleep walking there is a common fear that if we awaken a sleepwalker they may become violent or it may cause them some injury. However, this among many other myths is untrue and all of us at 4Sleep are ready to give you the facts!

The scientific term for sleep walking is somnambulism.  Somnambulism simply means walking or performing other activities while in a state of partial wakefulness.  A person experiencing somnambulism may simply sit up in bed, adjust their clothing or physically get up and walk around and in more extreme cases may eat, clean or even get into their car and drive.

Sleepwalking has been depicted in television, movies and courtrooms.  With so many exaggerated accounts involving sleepwalking many misnomers have become associated with this mild form of a sleep disorder, so let’s separate the myths from the facts.

It is dangerous to awaken someone who is sleepwalking. – Myth


Although it is best to simply gently rub the sleepwalkers back and guide them back to bed, awaking them will not invoke a rage of violence.  In fact, if you can even wake up the sleep walker they will most likely just be disoriented, confused and groggy.  Once morning comes they probably won’t even remember the incident.

Adults are the most common sleepwalkers. – Myth


Sleepwalking is most prevalent in children ages 6-12.  This can be due to several reasons including that the brain has not matured and cannot process the transition from wakefulness to sleep well, fatigue and/or anxiety.  Children generally grow out of their sleep walking episodes.

Sleepwalking in adults can also be associated too fatigue or anxiety, but if your college roommate is up walking around the room with a blank stare it could be a result of drinking too much at the Kappa Sigma frat party.  Alcohol, drug therapy, stress, insomnia and irregular sleep cycles are all common causes of sleepwalking in adults.

Sleepwalking can be used as a criminal defense. – Fact


Dating all the way back to 1864, sleepwalking has been used as a viable criminal defense.  Since individuals who are sleepwalking are in deep sleep they are unaware of their own actions and also rarely remember what they did during their sleepwalking episode.  If a criminal defense attorney can prove that their client was sleepwalking during a crime can that person be held accountable for their actions? 

Well, in a Canadian court in 1987 defendant Kenneth Parks was aquitted of murdering his mother-in-law with that exact defense.  His lawyer was able to prove that Parks had been sleepwalking during the attack and therefore was found not guilty.

Sleepwalking is genetic. - Fact


Recent studies have started linking sleepwalking and other sleep disorders to genetics.  It is pretty safe to say that if you and your husband have experienced sleepwalking that your children will most likely have sleepwalking episodes as well.  It is proven that a child or sibling is 10 times more likely to experience sleepwalking than someone whose parents or siblings have never had an episode.

You can find out your lover’s deepest secrets while their sleepwalking. – Myth


Although sleepwalkers have a tendency to talk it in their sleep you will rarely get anything as juicy as their past indiscretions or professions of undying love.  You are more likely to get mumbles and garbled bits and pieces of meaningless words.   There is a slight chance that the sleepwalker may respond to your question, but there is a high probability that it will be nonsensical.

People sleepwalk with their eyes open. – Fact


It is true that while sleepwalking, the sleepwalker’s eyes are open.  The portrayal of sleepwalkers with their arms outstretched and eyes closed is just true to film.  Sleepwalkers actually have their eyes open so that they are able to navigate.  Their eyes may seem distant and glassy but they are still performing their duty of watching out for obstacles, opening refrigerator doors, cleaning, picking out clothes and many more activities that sleepwalkers can engage in.

 People can’t get hurt while sleepwalking. – Myth


People can get hurt quite easily during sleep walking.  Even though their eyes are open, they are prone to tripping and losing their balance.  There have even been cases sited where a sleepwalker has died from walking outside in the snow and freezing to death.  To help protect sleepwalkers you love you may want to incorporate some of the following safety precautions.


  1. Lock all windows and doors.
  2. Remove or hide any dangerous items (knives, guns, etc..)
  3. Have the sleepwalker sleep on the ground floor to avoid falling down stairs.
  4. Hide the car keys.
  5. Keep hallways free from clutter.
  6. Put breakable objects out of reach.


Now that you are aware of facts, you are better equipped when you find yourself up against a sleepwalker.  We will also leave you with a few tips on best sleep practices to lessen the occurrence of sleepwalking. Carpesleepum!!

  Best Sleep Practices


  1. Make sure you associate your bed with sleep (not work, television, gaming and texting).
  2. Maintain a regular sleep pattern by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day.
  3. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine too close to your bedtime because they can stimulate or disrupt your quality of sleep.
  4. Make sure you are getting the daily recommended hours of sleep for your age.
  5. Exercise regularly.
  6. Eat healthy, nutritious meals.
  7. Sleep in a relaxing, quiet, and cool environment.
  8. Put down electronics at least an hour before bedtime.
  9. Destress through mediation, relaxation methods, aromatherapy, or easy listening music before bed.
  10. Create a bedtime routine and stick with it.






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