What Causes Sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'minor' to 'very serious'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose sleepwalking, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "sleepwalking" as a symptom.  Here are eight of many possibilities (more below):
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Seizure Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Panic Attacks
  • Alcohol Consequences
  • Heartburn
  • Asthma
  • Parkinson's Disease

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
slightly impaired ability to walk
being easily irritated
occasional acid reflux during sleep
somewhat disturbed sleep
frequent postprandial somnolence
sexual abuse during childhood
history of heartburn
past heroin/morphine use
aluminum-based antacid use
vomiting for 1-3 months
past LSD use
having asthma
... and more than 70 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of sleepwalking:
Cause Probability Status
Seizure Disorder 99% Confirm
Heartburn 24% Unlikely
Parkinson's Disease 16% Unlikely
Alcohol Consequences 3% Ruled out
Asthma 2% Ruled out
Panic Attacks 0% Ruled out
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 0% Ruled out
Sleep Apnea 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate sleeping-related problems, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
Have you experienced Sleepwalking? These are episodes where you perform activities in your sleep (not necessarily just walking) and have no knowledge at the time that you are doing them.
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ No, never
→ Yes, episode(s) in the past but not currently
→ Occasionally / a few episodes per year on average
→ Frequently / several episodes per month on average
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate no history of sleepwalking, past sleepwalking, regular sleepwalking or frequent sleepwalking, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
(Prescription) Drug Side-Effects

Sleepwalking can be caused by hypnotics, sedatives, neuroleptics, stimulants or antihistamines.

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's Disease is thought to trigger sleepwalking in those without a previous history of sleepwalking.

Concerned or curious about your health?  Try The Analyst™
Symptom Entry
Symptom Entry
Full Explanations
Optional Doctor Review
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