Sleepwalking and Pain

Have you ever woken up in front of the refrigerator and wondered how you got there? Or perhaps you’ve witnessed a child or bed partner walking around in a daze?

This mysterious behavior is known as sleepwalking. The disorder affects four percent of the population and more children than adults. It isn’t unusual for patients diagnosed with sleepwalking to have little to no memory of their nighttime experiences.

Because sleepwalkers have little control over their actions while asleep, they can put themselves in potentially dangerous situations, such as sleepwalking down flights of stairs or going outside. Sometimes, they might not even realize that they’ve accidentally hurt themselves until they wake up with cuts and bruises the next morning.

In a recent study published in the November issue of Sleep, researchers examined 200 individuals to assess whether sleepwalkers feel pain while they are asleep. Complaints of daytime pain, from headaches and migraines, were evaluated against the sleepwalkers who previously had experienced injuries from sleepwalking.

The results showed that while sleepwalkers were nearly four times more likely to experience headaches and 10 times more likely to report migraines while awake, 79 percent of sleepwalkers with at least one prior episode involving injury did not perceive pain while asleep.

Dr. Regis Lopez, a psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist at Hospital Gui-de-Chauliac in Montpellier, France, said, “Our results may help to understand the mechanisms of the sleepwalking episodes. We hypothesize that a dissociate state of arousal may modify the components for sleep-wake behavior, consciousness, and also pain perception.”

If you or a loved one is experiencing episodes of sleepwalking, please contact our certified team of sleep specialists to learn what you can do to prevent injury during sleep. Please call (678) 990-3962 to begin your journey to better sleep.