Sleep is a lot of things — good, bad, necessary — but there’s one adjective you rarely hear shut-eye being described as, and that’s eerie. I’m not referring to those weird, almost nightmarish dreams you wake up from in a fog that leave you searching for the right words to communicate what you experienced throughout the night. Rather, I’m talking about sleepwalking, and the fact that you could be out of bed and roaming the halls without realizing you are. Personally, it gives me the creeps, which is why I need to know all the things that can cause sleepwalking. That way, at least, I can do everything in my power to lock that bedtime behavior down-pat.
Of course, I don’t mean to imply that, if you’re a sleepwalker, it’s something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about, because it’s not. In fact, according to data collected by UK-based mattress and bed retailer, Mattress Online, 4 percent of adults in the UK (aka roughly 5 million people) are regular sleepwalkers. I’m just a naturally anxious person, so the idea of roaming my apartment in the dark without being fully conscious of it makes me feel just the slightest bit uneasy. But I digress.
It's also worth noting that, as common as sleepwalking is in adults, it’s even more likely for a child to be a sleepwalker. Per statistics that Mattress Online shared with Elite Daily via email, 40 percent of children will sleepwalk at least once between the ages of 3 and 8 years old, while 3 to 5 percent of children sleepwalk on the reg. Chances are, you've been there, too. Just ask your parents.
And on that note, it’s one thing to be the person who’s sleepwalking, but I can only imagine it’s a whole other ballgame trying to get a sleepwalker — whether they’re a child or full-grown adult — back to bed. But to set the record straight, sleep science coach and founder of SleepZoo, Chris Brantner, tells Elite Daily that even though rumor has it that waking a sleepwalker is “dangerous,” he’d like to put that myth to rest ASAP.
Waking up a sleepwalker isn't dangerous in the way that the urban legend describes. Basically, the thought stems from the belief that, during sleep, a person's soul leaves their body, and if you wake them, their soul won't be able to return, Brantner explains. "That myth later morphed into the belief that waking a sleepwalker could cause a heart attack or other dangerous consequence," he tells Elite Daily. But the truth is, the only real "danger" that could come from waking up a sleepwalker is injury, either to themselves or others, depending on how they act out in response to your attempt at waking them.
"If you absolutely must wake a sleepwalker, don't shake them," Brantner warns. "You have no idea how they will interpret your actions in their state, and they could react violently. Instead, try to use loud noises from a safe distance."
But while it can be useful to know how to wake a sleepwalker, it's also good to know what causes sleepwalking in the first place so that you can prevent yourself from developing this fascinating, yet slightly strange habit. Here are some of the most common causes of sleepwalking, according to experts.