HEALTHY LIVING

People Who Sleepwalk May Remember What They Did While They Were Asleep, Researchers Say

03/18/2013 08:41 am ET

Sleepwalkers may actually remember when they've sleepwalked, according to a new study from the University of Montreal and Sacre-Couer Hospital.

Published in the journal Lancet Neurology, the new findings show that not only is it possible for sleepwalkers to remember their actions from the night before, they may have some underlying reason for the actions they took while they were sleepwalking. They also may feel sleepy the next day.

"There is a misconception that sleepwalkers do things without knowing why. However, there is a significant proportion of sleepwalkers who remember what they have done and can explain the reasons for their actions," study researcher Antonio Zadra, of the University of Montreal, said in a statement. "They are the first to say, once awake, that their explanations are nonsensical. However, during the episode, there is an underlying rationale."

Zadra explained the case of a sleepwalking man who took his sleeping dog from his bed to the bathroom to spray it with water. His reasoning? He thought the dog was on fire -- though in actuality, he wasn't. But in that man's sleepwalking state, he genuinely believed his dog was on fire -- hence the reason why he doused the animal with water.

Zadra added that while most people may not remember what happened while they were sleepwalking, some sleepwalkers -- particularly adults -- are able to remember what they were thinking, feeling and doing while sleepwalking.

For most people, sleepwalking is genetic (four out of five sleepwalkers have a family history of it), researchers noted. Sleepwalking is often triggered by sleep deprivation and stress, and while it's usually harmless, some people may impose harm on themselves or others while in a sleepwalking state.

Recently, a study in the journal Neurology showed that sleepwalking is more prevalent than previously thought -- 3.6 percent of adults in the U.S. sleepwalk.

Philip Gehrman, Ph.D., CBSM, who is the clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania, previously explained to HuffPost that sleepwalking occurs when part of the brain is awake, while the rest of the brain is asleep.

"With sleep-walking, people are mostly asleep but you're engaging in what are usually kind of basic routine behaviors," Gehrman had told HuffPost. "So typically, people sleep walk and go to the bathroom, or go down to the kitchen and get something to eat, but it's all usually very routine."

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