Sleep Deprivation Benefits Sleepwalking

Photo: Full moon

Sleep deprivation can lead to
sleepwalking; ©

Led by Antonio Zadra of the Université de Montréal, in Quebec, Canada, a new study included 40 patients referred to a sleep disorder clinic for suspected sleepwalking between August 2003 and March 2007. All patients were examined and underwent one night of baseline sleep recording in the lab. The next day they went about their regular daytime activities, after which they returned to the lab in the evening, where they were constantly supervised to ensure they did not fall asleep.

Recovery sleep took place the next morning, following 25 hours of wakefulness calculated from when they had awakened the previous morning. All patients were videotaped during each sleep period and the authors evaluated behavioral movements which ranged from playing with the bed sheets to getting up from the bed, to determine if they were sleepwalking episodes. They also scored the complexity of each episode on a three-point scale.

The results showed that while 32 behavioral episodes were recorded from 20 sleepwalkers (50%) during baseline sleep, 92 episodes were recorded from 36 patients (90%) during recovery sleep. Sleep deprivation also significantly increased the proportion of sleepwalkers experiencing at least one complex episode.

The authors caution that observing behavioral events in the sleep lab following sleep deprivation is not always sufficient to confirm a diagnosis of sleepwalking in a medical-legal context. However, the authors note that: “Used as a diagnostic tool, sleep deprivation shows a high sensitivity for somnambulism and may be clinically useful with a wider range of somnambulistic patients than previously reported.” They conclude that the study supports recommending that sleepwalkers maintain a regular sleep schedule and avoid sleep deprivation.; Source: Wiley-Blackwell