Somnambulism: myths and reality

Professor Antonio Zadra and his colleagues from Montreal University (Canada) analyzed work on somnambulism, made over the past fifteen years and came to conclude that some ideas about this intriguing sleep disorder is nothing more than myths. Photos from open sources

Episodes of somnambulism are usually too short for a person managed to harm himself. (Photo by Rainer Holz.) For example, it is believed that only children 6-12 years old suffer from somnambulism, and cases when this disorder manifests itself in adults, a rare exception. Then there is the formation of the brain that occurs during puberty, as if relieving a person from walking in a dream. But it turns out this is not entirely true: with age, the probability of occurrence somnambulism indeed falls, but in 25% of cases a person continues walking in a dream and after puberty. The disappearance is researchers associate somnambulism in adults with the fact that with as we age, the proportion of deep slow-wave sleep decreases, during which just pulls to wander around. Somnambulism in both children and adults has the same signs: part of the brain while sleeping, part – awake. The awake part is responsible for the appropriate behavior: a person opens and closes doors, washes hands, rises or descends on the stairs, his eyes are open, he can even recognize people. However, self-awareness is changed, and the reaction to the environment unusual and illogical. In general, the authors of the work believe that partial a dream when the brain does not fall asleep completely – this is the essence somnambulism. And this, by the way, allows us to explain partial amnesia of somnambulist: a person doesn’t really remember what he was doing at that time, but something in his memory still remains. And some may even remember what they thought or felt at that moment, although such an improvement in memory somnambulism occurs again with age. And it is strong at odds with the generally accepted view that somnambulists never remember anything from their nightly adventures. Researchers also absolutely disagree that all that make somnambulists, committed by them “on the machine.” That is, during of his seemingly completely unconscious wandering man fully understands the causes and consequences of their actions and then can explain why he did this and not this. Ordinary logic in his deeds may not work, but own causal relationship, albeit whimsically bizarre, in the deeds and thoughts of somnambulism are still there. For example, a man in a dream gets up, takes a dog who sleeps nearby, goes to the bathroom and dips dog in the water. The act seems pointless, but then the explanation is all it is located: it seemed to the sleeping man that the dog was burning! That is, as we see, own logic was present here. In this episode somnambulism in most cases is very short, so the person does not have time to harm herself or others (although there are exceptions: once a person got into a car in a dream and drove, and because also killed a couple of people!). Another common the fallacy is that somnambulism is not related to the way a person feels while awake. In reality about half of somnambulists feel the strongest during the day drowsiness. Younger people can successfully mask it, however in special tests, their reaction is still noticeably worse, than those who do not suffer from somnambulism. As for the mechanisms and causes of somnambulism, the authors of the work believe that the reason is not so much in the difficulties of transition from wakefulness to sleep, how many features of the structure of sleep itself. Slow-wave sleep in somnambulist fragmented by short (3–10 s) episodes of increased activity, as if by micro awakenings. Because of this, it decreases and restorative function of sleep, and therefore to people suffering somnambulism, I want to sleep at inopportune times. Well and of course it does not do without a genetic predisposition: in 80% cases when a person walks in a dream, in his family there is a rich history of somnambulism. True, usually genes of somnambulism themselves they cannot turn on themselves, for this they need stress or, for example, chronic lack of sleep. The research results are published in Lancet Neurology Magazine. Prepared from the materials of Montreal University.


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