Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a general term used to describe ‘normal’ events and tasks performed during the day that are performed sub-consciously during sleep. These can range from simply sitting up and looking around, going to the fridge for a drink of milk, going to post a letter or even getting in a car and driving. Somnambulism occurs during deep slow wave sleep (SWS) and is more likely to occur in the first third of the night in adults. It is not related to dreams.
Sleepwalking is reported to occur in approximately 1-2% of adults. There is a strong genetic link in the occurrence of sleep-walking, but anything that fragments sleep can precipitate these partial arousal’s; over-tiredness, stress, sleeping pills and alcohol to name a few.
Sleep talking, also known as somniloquy, involves talking during sleep and is not physically or mentally harmful. The complexity of what is said can range from complete gibberish or mumbling to complicated dialogues or monologues that make sense. Anyone can experience sleep talking, but the condition is more common in males and children. Sleep-talkers are not aware of their speech so it may sound different from their normal speech. Sleep talking may be initiated by anything that disturbs or lightens sleep; stress, depression, fever, sleep deprivation, alcohol, not dissimilar to sleep walking.
REM Behaviour Disorder
REM behaviour disorder is a condition that is often confused with sleepwalking. As its name suggests REM behaviour disorder occurs during REM sleep (light, dream sleep) and not SWS like sleepwalking. In some people the paralysis associated with REM sleep does not always occur and subsequently they can physically act out their dreams. REM behaviour disorder can occur with abuse of drugs, medicines or alcohol or in people withdrawing from them. It can also be a precursor of Parkinson’s disease and is common in dementia.