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The Science Behind: Noctambulism (Cover- Sara Chaudhari)

Noctambulism. Doesn’t that sound confusing? It has so many syllables, I can hardly say it in one breath! The definition of noctambulism is as confusing as the word. It means sleepwalking.

Sleepwalking is pretty confusing if you think about it, even without all the syllables. Your brain is resting while sleeping, you are unconscious, yet you still walk around? Like a zombie? That’s creepy!

But my question is, why? Why and how do we sleepwalk?

That is the question I am here to answer today, I hope you all have fun reading!

Sleepwalking is a behavior in which the patient gets up during the night and performs activities. The word “sleepwalking” can be misleading because you see the word walking, but it means doing all sorts of activities as you are unconscious/sleeping.

These activities can be anything that you see in your dreams. If you dream that you are falling off a cliff, you would physically fall off your bed.

That leads us to our next question, how do we sleepwalk?

To understand the causes of sleepwalking, you must understand that there is two types of sleep—deep sleep and REM sleep. Deep sleep is when the brain is sleeping but not dreaming. and REM sleep is when the brain is sleeping and dreaming. Our body cycles through these two throughout the night.

Sleepwalking happens in REM sleep. REM sleep happens 90 minutes after you fall asleep, and it changes back and forth from deep to REM in 10-minute intervals. Meaning that after those 90 minutes, you will get 10 minutes of REM sleep, then 10 minutes of a deep sleep, then 10 minutes of REM sleep, and so on and so forth. This is why sleepwalking can occur multiple times throughout the night and in short periods.

When dreaming in REM sleep, your brain starts to believe that what you are seeing in the dream is actually happening in real life. This is like virtual reality. In virtual reality, you move, and it affects the situation in the virtual world. Sleepwalking is the same—the only difference is that you do it in the dream first, and then your body reacts the same way. One example of this is if in your dream you threw something away, then in real life, you would throw something away, like your pillow to the floor.

Is there a cure for sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking is a harmless disorder that does no damage to anyone/anything. Thus, there’s no cure for sleepwalking. Doctors say that the body will grow out of it. But if it gets serious, doctors recommend taking sleeping pills to keep the body in deep sleep.

So that’s the science behind sleepwalking! I hope you all learned something from this article and that it was interesting!

Until the next dive into science,


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