Sleep walking associated with psychiatric disorders

A new study has reported that around one in 25 people sleep walk, with many reporting doing so since childhood.

The research that was conducted by Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Centre, surveyed 19,136 individuals from 15 American states all of whom were aged 18 and older. The researchers established each individual’s medical history, mental health status and established what if any medications were currently being taken.

Specific survey questions asked for information into each person’s sleeping habits, the duration of their Sleep, weather they sleep walk and if they had ever experienced any inappropriate or dangerous behaviour while they were sleeping. Those individuals, who had reported sleep walking, were asked if there was a family history of sleep walking and how often it occurs.

The results that were published in the journal called Neurology, found that 3.6 percent of the sample reporting at lease one episode of sleep walking and one percent saying they had done at least twice in the month prior to the survey. This, the researcher suggested was far more than anyone had previously thought.

Over 80 percent of the people that had reported sleepwalking had reported doing so since childhood with many reporting a family history of the condition.

Crucially, it was found that sleep waling was associated with psychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and sleep walking, those individuals who reported a diagnosis of one of the above conditions were considerably more likely to report sleep walking.

Additionally, when compared to those who were not taking any medication, individuals who were taking anti-depressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), were up to three times more likely to sleep walk at least twice a month.

The research has shown that sleep walking is directly linked to some psychiatric condition and the medication taken to alleviate symptoms. However, questions as to the direction of the relationship, as well as why and how they are related remain to be addressed.

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