A new study from Stanford University reveals new clues about sleepwalking — how common it is, and what contributes to it.
Sleepwalking is fairly common in children — but the Stanford study finds it’s also quite common in adults, more so than previously assumed. This survey of close to 20,000 Americans found that almost 4 percent walked in their sleep in the past year.
It’s the first major study in 30 years on the prevalence and causes of sleep walking. Researchers found that taking sleeping pills contributes to the problem. They also found those with depression and anxiety were more likely to sleepwalk.
Since this nocturnal activity is typically triggered by sleep deprivation and stress, Dr. Philip Gehrman from the Penn Sleep Center says that could be the connection.
“It’s not clear at this point if the link is because of stress, or if the link is because they are not sleeping as well because of the depression and anxiety, and that it’s causing them to lose sleep, which is then triggering the sleep walking,” he said.
Gehrman says the prevalence is higher than he had expected, but he doesn’t think this study will lead to more major studies into sleepwalking or other nocturnal activities such as eating while asleep.
“They don’t have a significant impact on people’s lives,” he said. “Often they are more of a nuisance.”