Sleepwalking (somnambulism) is a non-REM sleep disorder that causes people to get up and walk around while sleeping. It’s classified as a parasomnia, an abnormal behavior during sleep that is disruptive. Sleepwalking occurs when a person is in the deepest stage of sleep. The sleepwalker is unable to respond during the event and does not remember what happened the next day.

Common causes of sleepwalking:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Medications
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Hereditary
  • Chronic stress and anxiety
  • Fever
  • Sleep apnoea

It is more common for children to sleepwalk than adults, especially those between the ages of three and seven, and occurs more often in children with obstructive sleep apnoea, a disorder when breathing pauses at least 10 seconds and very often while sleeping. Sleep apnoea interrupts the deep phase of sleep and may increase the occurrence of sleepwalking. There is also a higher instance of sleepwalking among children who wet the bed. Night terror is a related disorder and both tend to be hereditary.


Symptoms of sleepwalking include:

  • Getting out of bed and walking around
  • Talking in sleep and saying things that do not make sense
  • Looking dazed or having blank look on face
  • Being difficult to wake up
  • Not responding when spoken to
  • Sitting up and appearing awake during sleep
  • Eyes opened, performing detailed activity of any type during sleep
  • Not remembering the sleep walking episode when they wake up

Health Issues (problems)

The main complication is getting injured while sleepwalking.


In many cases, adopting good sleep hygiene may solve the problem. Most children will outgrow it.

Consult our senior specialist Dr YT Pang for an assessment if the person is having frequent episodes, injuring himself, or showing violent behavior. Sleepwalking rarely indicates any serious underlying medical or psychiatric problem, although it can be a symptom of other disorders.

Sleep study tests may be done in persons in whom the diagnosis is still unclear. We offer hospital-based and home-based sleep study for your convenience.