Question: why do some of us sleep walk and sleeptalk and how does it work

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  1. Short answer is we don’t really know. We know what sleepwalking and talking look like on EEG (Electroencephalogram, fancy brain scan) and we know that it appears to be inherited from your parents but otherwise its a big mystery!


  2. Hi Drunktinyturtle

    That is a really interesting question.

    Firstly what is it?

    We have five parts to our sleep, #1 Light sleep, #2 consolidated sleep, #3 – 4 slow wave sleep, #REM – rapid eye movement sleep. It appears that most occurrences of somnambulism (sleep walking) are during stages 3-4. Essentially it is an involuntary event where people can walk and talk from anywhere between a couple of seconds to in some cases greater than 30 minutes.

    There are even claims of people driving while this happens.

    So what causes it?

    There are number of factors from genetic, environmental conditions, physiological conditions
    Genetic – if someone else has a history of sleep walking in your family, then you are 10 times as likely, also identical twins appear to be affected more (to which i am married to one)
    Environmental – in the military we underwent sleep and food deprivation training, and a lack of sleep certainly appears to contribute to sleep walking.
    Physiological – the length and depth of sleep especially #3-4, can predispose people to sleep walking. It is often seen in children because of this fact. Also sickness and other health issues can influence the occurrence of sleep walking.

    It is a common disorder and is associated with a number of other sleep disorders such as night terrors.

    I have had an interest in sleep disorders for a while, especially, sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is as the name suggests, being paralysed in sleep, but the odd thing about it is that you can remain aware and ‘awake’ to it. Sleep paralysis appears responsible for many stories of people saying they visited by aliens or ghouls in the night.