60-Second Health

Waves of Walkers Wander without Waking

A large survey finds evidence that millions of Americans had at least one episode of sleepwalking in the last year. Katherine Harmon reports

Sleepwalking can be pretty creepy, but a new study shows that it's not all that uncommon. A survey of more than 15,000 adults across 15 different states implies that millions of Americans have engaged in these nocturnal wanderings in the past year. 

Almost a third of those asked recalled sleepwalking at least once in their life. Most of these incidents had occurred during childhood, when sleepwalking is much more common.

Some 3.6 percent of respondents reported at least one incident in the past year, and 1 percent had two or more episodes a month.

Those more likely to be habitual sleepwalkers included people taking an SSRI antidepressant; heavy drinkers; or those with depression or OCD. The findings are in the journal Neurology. [M. M. Ohayon et al.,"Prevalence and Comorbidity of Nocturnal Wandering in the U.S. Adult General Population"]

Sleepwalking puts people at risk for minor injuries, falls and even auto accidents. According to the Mayo Clinic, adult sleepwalkers might indeed try to attack their wakers. So, the recommendation is to simply try to steer the somnambulator quietly back to bed. Sweet dreams.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

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