Ask the Sleepio Expert: Why do some people sleepwalk but most don’t?

15th June 2012 by Peter Hames

Ask the Sleepio Expert

Why do some people sleepwalk and others don’t?

Around 40-50% of the population have had at least one sleepwalking episode however, most of these will have occurred during childhood and only 3-4% of the population still sleepwalk as adults. It seems therefore, to be something which people grow out of as they leave childhood.

During a sleepwalking episode part of the brain remains asleep, whilst the other is awake. The parts of the brain which remain asleep throughout are those responsible for remembering, making sense of the world around you and making rational decisions. The brain regions which control basic functions however, behave as though the individuals are awake, allowing sleepwalkers to walk around for example.

Research has suggested that there is a genetic predisposition to sleepwalking, meaning that you will often see sleepwalking running in families. Alongside these are physiological factors, for example, it has been shown that those genetically prone to sleepwalking are more likely to have a sleepwalking episode at times of stress or worry, or when they’re not getting enough sleep. It has also been suggested that alcohol may increase someone’s chance of having a sleepwalking episode.

Got a question about sleep? Post a comment on the Sleepio YouTube channel and each month sleep expert Prof Colin Espie will answer a selection.

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