Somnambulism, also known as sleepwalking, affects between 1% and 15% of the American population. Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder in which an individual engages in an activity that they would normally carry out while in a wakeful state. A sleepwalker is difficult to awaken and most likely will not remember the events that took place while in that state.
Sleepwalking can affect people of any age or sex but most commonly affects children and is more prevalent in men than women. Sleepwalking often takes place when an individual wakes suddenly from a slow wave sleep, which in simpler terms is a deep sleep state. Sleepwalking does not only consist of walking around, it can be as minor as sitting up in bed and looking around or as serious as getting behind the wheel of a car.
Sleepwalking is triggered by sleep deprivation, alcohol, certain illnesses, and some medications. Sleepwalkers may demonstrate other behaviors during an episode as well, such as eating, bathing, sleep talking, screaming, and other peculiar behaviors. It is a common misconception that a sleepwalker should not be awakened during an episode. In reality, it is very hazardous not to wake the individual. Do be cautious when doing so because there have been cases where the sleepwalker commits a violent attack on the person trying to wake them.
In regards to treatment, there is not a quick and easy fix that works for everyone. In some cases just improving ones sleep hygiene will eliminate the problem completely however, that is not always the case. It is important to discuss options with your doctor and/or sleep specialist in order to prevent any injury during an episode. Hypnosis has been a successful route for many patients and some patients (usually the younger ones) will eventually just grow out of it.