What is the reason for somnambulism (sleepwalking)?

The disease of walking in sleep is known as somnambulism. Scientists have not been able to solve its mysteries yet. Though the cause of disease is unknown researchers have made in-depth psychological and physiological studies of ‘sleep walkers’. A person who is fast asleep according to his normal routine suddenly undergoes some change in his sleep. Some part of his brain becomes awake which makes the person sufficiently active to move and walk about. Other part of his brain remains asleep, so the person does not become fully awake. Eyes are open. (The belief that a sleep walker walks with his arms outstretched in front of him as if trying to feel obstacles before him is not correct). However, as the somnambulist is asleep sometimes he makes risky attempt to walk through a transparent glass door. Some sleep walkers are known to have fallen down on road from a high balcony and lost life trying to cross over the balustrade of balcony. Apart from such risky experiences of a few, thousands of somnambulists are known to climb up and down stairs, play musical instruments, paint pictures and of course go out for a walk while asleep.

Most pitiful are those unfortunate persons who suffer from a disease called non-insane automatism in addition to somnambulism. They violently attack others or even commit murder in sleep. An American magazine named ‘Sleep’ published a research article in 1996 analyzing this disease. It contained a case study of 23 years old Canadian who had in his sleep driven to relative’s home and murdered him.

A girl in Kentucky State of the USA dreamt that thieves had broken in the house. So she opened a drawer and took out two revolvers. Still asleep she fired haphazardly from the revolvers killing her father and six years old brother.

People who commit such crimes in sleep have no realization of what they have done. And even after becoming fully awake they have no recollection of what they have done. Taking into account absence of motive and absence of even realization of having committed crime, courts in some states of the USA acquit the culprits but order them to remain under observation of a government approved psychoanalyst.

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