Nearly one in three people will sleepwalk in their lives. Are you one of them? Sleepwalkers have peed in their closets, driven far distances, and have even sketched masterpieces in their sleep.
How about you? Would you even remember?
Sleepwalking is generally harmless, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Recently, a New Zealand woman drove 300 km (190 miles) in her sleep. Luckily, no one was harmed.
What the hell is sleepwalking? Why do we do it?
Sleepwalking is a disorder of arousal. It means that something fires in the brain during deep sleep, something that isn’t powerful enough to wake you up, but it’s enough to pul you into the limbo between sleeping and waking.
Horror movies are made of this kind of stuff. And so are comedies.
It’s funny to think that the brain continues to send physical commands to our body, even after it’s powered down. It’s scary to think that the only thing preventing us from acting on these commands is GABA.
GABA is an amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter to reduce the activity of neurons in your brain and nervous system. It does this by suppressing glutamate, another neurotransmitter that causes excitement.
So if, for some reason, you don’t produce enough GABA you might put couch pillows in your oven, or mistake your closet for a toilet.
You might wake up behind the wheel of your car, hundreds of kilometers from your bedroom.
Sleepwalking is more common in young children. The brain is developing, and hasn’t completely mastered wake and sleep cycles.
The body is developing, and an untimely release of growth hormones could just be enough to half wake you up. While most children eventually grow out of their sleepwalking phase, some are stuck with it for life, and often times they pass it on.
A Canadian study found that 60% of kids with parents who sleepwalk, become sleepwalkers themselves.
Of course, there are other explanations for sleepwalking. If you’re on certain medications, if you’ve been drinking that night, or if you’ve got a fever, that might explain it. Sleepwalking could also be an early sign of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
But this isn’t one of those “sleep with one eye open” kinds of stories. You may have heard that it’s dangerous to wake a sleepwalker. But that’s a myth. They might be a little confused or disoriented, so wake them up gently – and do it before they reach the key rack.
- Featured Image Source: Radek Lát / Flickr
- Why We Sleepwalk
- Sleepwalking Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
- How Sleepwalking Works
- Sleepwalker cleared of murdering father
- More than 8.4 million Americans sleepwalk each year, study finds
- Woman Drives Asleep At Wheel For Hundreds Of Miles In New Zealand
- GABA (GAMMA-AMINOBUTYRIC ACID)
- Understanding GABA
- Glutamate (neurotransmitter)
- Is sleepwalking genetic? Study suggests it runs in the family