Posted by: | 2019/01/22

Sleep problems

My sister's 18-year-old son has sleep problems at night since a very young age. He wakes up almost every night during sleep. He talks, walks and does things in his sleep. He sometimes lifts furniture and throw it around in the room and his mom must wake him up every night. This is going on for a very long time. He recently visited me alone without his parents and we could not sleep for the entire time. He tried to stay awake throughout the night because he was afraid he would do funny staff. My sister took him to a Dr after I complained. The Dr give a Melatonin prescription and referred him to the psychologist. The medication does not make a difference and is going to see the psychologist this. The problem is that he started with university studies next week and he must stay in the hostel in the same room with another student. He walks around in his sleep and it will cause problems because he will not have his own room. What could be the possible causes of his condition?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink
- 2019/01/23

Sleep-walking ( and talking, etc.) is a curious condition not fully understood,  in which brain tests can how mixed signs of sleep and wakefulness.  Behaviours can be complex, including driving a car and cooking a meal.  It can be hereditary : has anyone else in the family had similar problems ?
It's often described as more common when one is very tired or lacking sleep, so though his idea of trying to stay awake makes some sense, it might actually make the problem worse.  Some medications can make it worse. Though Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone which can help insomnia and jet lag, it isn't free of side-effects, and it has been described as possibly CAUSING sleep-walking in some cases. 
As for drugs which may make it more likely, sleeping meds are most often associated, especially Zolpidem.  Alcohol and street drugs before sleep are  a bad idea, and some advise awarding late caffeine intake.  There are mixed reports of antidepressants and drug affecting serotonin or DOPA sometimes helping, and sometimes making things worse.  Some reports CBT counselling and hypnosis may have helped,
A problem is that there's not much proper scientific research ( which would be really hard to do ) so most discussion is based on individual case report.
If there is a Sleep Lab near you, or a Sleep Specialist, maybe associated with your nearest medical school, they'd be ideal to involve.
If he's going to university, I'd think his doctor has a strong case to argue, to write to the university and hostel, suggesting a single room if possible. 
How do you handle a sleep-walker ? The old stories of it being dangerous to wake them are false.  You want to avoid startling them or grabbing them physically ( unless they're in immediate physical danger ) ; but one can speak to them gently, and, walking near them, gently steer them back to bed.  They may then fall back into normal sleep, though some would advise gently waking them first, so they can return to a natural level of sleep.  One would lock the house door to the outside, maybe, with the person's consent, lock the bedroom door, providing a bell they could ring in emergency or distress.

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