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One Out of Three Americans SleepWalk

Update Date: May 16, 2012 02:45 PM EDT
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A new study published in the journal Neurology's May 15th issue states that one out of every three Americans experience sleep walking at least once in their lives. Researchers found that over 3.6 percent of U.S. adults sleepwalk each year, which accounts to approximately 8.4 million people.

"Put into perspective, 8.5 million people are concerned [who frequently sleepwalk]," said study author Dr. Maurice Ohayon with Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. Ohayon is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center. "The problem is not so much with the rare cases.  There are a huge number of people who have had regular, frequent sleepwalking during the past year."

"I would like to correct the impression that sleepwalking is rare," says Ohayon, "This is a huge number of people."

The study, which involved the tracking of sleepwalking conditions of over 15,000 people over different cities, is the first of its kind conducted at a national level.

The study also states that people who suffer mental illness such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are more likely to sleep walk.  It was also observed that people under the influence of anti-depressants called SSRIs are more likely to sleepwalk. However, the profession blames depression for this and not the treatment.

"Depression and OCD are often associated with sleep disorders," Ohayon said.  "You find disturbed sleep often with depression.  With depression, there is more nocturnal awakening and more ruminating during the night, which in turn increases sleepwalking risk."

"Sleepwalking and sleep apnea are badly associated, which means when you identify sleepwalking you must look absolutely at the possibility of sleep apnea," he said.  "Sleep apnea has very bad consequences such as hypertension and less oxygen in the brain over a long period of time, which can cause a lot of problems in itself."

During the study, a clean distinction was seen where younger people were more prone to sleepwalking than older people. However, no such difference was observed gender wise.

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