Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder affecting an estimated 10 percent of all humans at least once in their lives. It is far more common in kids than in adults, as most sleepwalkers outgrow it by the early teen years. It may run in families. So if you or your partner are or were sleepwalkers, your child may be too. However, adult sleep walking affects only one percent and most adult sleepwalkers began the disorder during childhood. In some cases, sleepwalking in adults can result in violent behavior.
There are several possible causes for sleepwalking in adults, including stress, fatigue and alcohol or drug abuse. According to recent research from the University Hospital in Bern Switzerland, sleepwalking may be a genetic disorder.
Other contributing factors were various health problems including mental health issues and sleep apnea. Over half of the 74 patients tested reported episodes of sleepwalking during childhood. Sleepwalking occurs during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. This is also the dream stage of sleep. Under normal conditions, as soon as a sleeper slips into REM sleep, the body becomes paralyzed to protect the person from acting out his/her dreams. However in sleepwalking this paralysis does not occur leaving the person vulnerable to harming himself or even others as he tries to enact his dreams.