In recent years we’ve heard about sleepwalking most often in connection with hypnotic sleep medications, such as Ambien and Lunesta, with news stories of people on these medications doing all sorts of activities while asleep, including sleep eating and sleep driving.
A recent study sheds some revealing light on sleepwalking: how common it is, who is at greater risk for experiencing it and what medications are most strongly associated with it. Since an official sleepwalking diagnosis is best conducted with an overnight sleep monitoring test, and this study used self-reported information in a survey, researchers used the phrase “nocturnal wandering” to describe the sleepwalking-like behavior. In recent years, hypnotic sleep medications have been linked to sleepwalking in news reports.
There’s a great deal more for us to learn about what causes sleepwalking, particularly when it comes to the effects of sleep medications.

The findings indicate that sleepwalking may be more common among adults than previously thought, and that this is a sleep disorder that runs in families. They collected information using a survey that addressed sleep habits, sleep disorders, mental and physical health, and medication use.
Participants answered questions about how often nocturnal wandering occurred, also about behavior during the nocturnal wandering episodes, as well as about family history of the sleep disorder, medication use and other medical conditions. Researchers found that people with alcohol dependence or addiction were more likely to have frequent sleepwalking episodes.
These types of medications include the drugs Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata, and they’ve been the subject of much attention for possibly causing all sorts of nocturnal sleep activity, including sleepwalking, sleep eating and even sleep driving.  The current study noted that some over the counter sleep medications were associated with an increased risk of nocturnal wandering.
SSRI medications are some of the most often prescribed anti-depressants on the market today, including Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Celexa, among many others.

Among those who reported a history of sleepwalking, 30.5% also reported having at least one family member who also experienced episodes of sleepwalking. It’s important to know your risk factors, and to use sleep medications – even those over-the-counter types – only in consultation with your doctor. Sleepwalking is a very real sleep disorder that affects adults as well as children, with consequences that can range from the embarrassing to the downright dangerous.

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