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Friday 25th May 2018

Sleep debt boosts sleepwalking

25th March 2008

People who are sleep-deprived are more likely to sleepwalk, according to new research.


A study carried out by a team at the Université de Montréal showed that people catching up on missed sleep were far more likely to sleepwalk, a problem which typically affects around 4% of the population, and which can lead to aggressive behaviour or injury.

The study monitored 40 suspected sleepwalkers during normal sleep, and then during rest which followed a long period of wakefulness.

Incidents of disturbed sleep, including sleepwalking, were found to rise sharply during this "recovery sleep".

The research, published in the Annals of Neurology, focused on patients referred to a sleep disorder clinic for suspected sleepwalking from August 2003 to March 2007.

After sleeping a night in the lab, patients were kept awake for 25 hours under constant supervision, doing normal daytime activities. They were then allowed to sleep the next morning, a "recovery sleep".

Researchers studied videotapes of their sleeping patients, grading the level of disturbance on a three-point scale ranging from playing with the bedsheets to getting out of bed.

Sleepwalking, which is thought to occur during periods of deep sleep as opposed to rapid-eye movement, or REM, sleep, occurred in half of the patients during the normal night's sleep, but in 90% of participants during the "recovery sleep".

A total of 92 episodes of disturbance were recorded by those in recovery sleep compared with just 32 in those getting a normal night's sleep.

Patients who had been sleep-deprived were also more likely to have problems in moving out of deep sleep and into other kinds of sleep.
Previous research has linked sleep deprivation to sleepwalking in previous research - but the findings have been inconclusive.

Deep sleep, associated with a slow down of electrical activity in the brain, is believed to be critical to the restoration of mood and the ability to learn, think and remember.

Experts say sleepwalking is a serious problem, as it can have serious consequences for the sleeper, or even people around them. In extreme cases, people have committed murder while sleepwalking.

Sleepwalking, according to Neil Stanley, of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said the study showed adults also needed to get a good night's sleep every night.

More and more adults, he said, were suffering from sleepwalking, in an increasingly tired and sleep-deprived society.


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