Written by Dr. Dave Hnida, CBS4 Medical Editor

It’s the dead of night. Everyone sleeping peacefully. Then quickly and quietly, a nighttime wanderer arises from bed and begins a trek to … somewhere.

While fast asleep.

If you haven’t done it, odds are you know someone who has.

A new study from Stanford University finds about one in three of us have taken a nocturnal stroll while simultaneously catching zzzz’s.

Don’t know why. Don’t know how. Simply, it just is more common than we thought.

Sleepwalking is most common in children, but adults can do the zombie stroll as well.

Risk factors include:

– Depression

– Taking anti-depressant medication (for reasons other than depression)

– Having sleep apnea

– Taking OTC sleep medications that contain antihistamines such as Benadryl (or diphenhydramine.)

– Lots of alcohol (especially regular, heavy use)

– Finally, simply sleeping (told you scientists didn’t know why.)

So let’s look at this practically. If you’re a sleepwalker, do you need to worry? Odds are no. While sleepwalking is more common than we thought, its rare to sleep walk to your car and drive to Kansas while still in dreamland.

How about waking up a sleepwalker? Will the shock of being awakened from some weird dream state trigger a heart attack or a stroke?

Odds are no, but you — the waker — should beware. That’s because when sleepwalking, all parts of the brain aren’t quite up to speed, and when awakened suddenly, a walker may get confused, scared, and decide to throw a jab or right cross.

The best advice: gently guide a sleepwalker back to bed.

And if you have to do it more than one night, maybe it’s time for a chat with the doctor.

Sweet dreams. And don’t forget to send me a postcard from Topeka.


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