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Sleep is a must for humans. The Oxford Dictionary (ed. 1) defines sleep as "a physical and mental resting state in which a person becomes relatively inactive and unaware of the environment". Studies have shown that people can live longer without food than without sleep (Goettel, 2007). As we all know that sleep plays an important part in our lives. Without the proper amounts of sleep, fatigue and other problems can arise such as people cannot pay attention while they are awake. Thus, many newspaper reports have highlighted many simple tips to have a better sleep in order to have a healthier body and lifestyle.
Although sleep is essential to normal, but some of the people are suffering from sleep disorders. Sleep disorder is a problem that involves any difficulties related to sleeping (Cawley, 2008). There have more than 100 different disorders of sleeping and waking but it can be grouped into four categories which are dyssomnias, parasomnias, medical or psychiatric conditions that may lead to sleep disorders and sleeping sickness (NCBI, 2009). These sleeping disorders can be found in children, teenagers, adults, older people and even in pregnant women. It means that it is varies and needs to depend on the specific sleep disorder. However, the most common sleeping disorders include insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, night terrors, somnambulism and so on (Effective, 2010). Thus, I have chosen somnambulism as my topic in this research paper. The reason why I choose somnambulism as my topic is because my 11 years old sister sleepwalks. So, I feel this is a very interesting sleep disorder to study and research with.
Somnambulism is still a mystery sleeping disorder for scientist to solve or discover. Though the cause of disease is unknown, researchers have made some in-depth studies of "sleepwalkers". The term somnambulism comes from the Latin words for sleep (somnus) and walking (ambulus) (Konno, 1998). More commonly, somnambulism is known as sleepwalking that is a sleep disorder in which the patient will sit up in bed or get out of bed automatically during sleep and walk in a poorly coordinated manner. Sleepwalking is affects an estimated 10% of all humans at least once in their lives. According to studies, sleepwalking is occurring most common in children and the peak is between the ages of 10 and 12 (Doghramji, 2008). However, sleepwalking also in adults but it has been investigated the amount is less than 1%. Research has shown that males are more likely to sleepwalk than females and they are more likely to engage in potentially dangerous or violent activity while they are sleepwalking. Sleepwalking episodes occur within around 2 hours of first falling asleep and it is quite short normally from 3 minutes to half an hour plus (Doghramji, 2008). Therefore, sleepwalkers always have no memory of the event happened when they awake. They generally only happen only once a night. However, the specific angle that I focus on is sleepwalking activities. It can be categorized into simple activity, complex activity, dangerous activity, violent activity and sexual activity (Welsh, 2011).
First and foremost, most of the sleepwalkers are in simple activity while they sleepwalking. Simple activities include sitting up in bed, walking here and there, eating and drinking (Sleepwalking, 2011). Generally, these sleepwalkers may just sit up on the bed and appears awake before lying down again. The cartoon image of sleepwalking has planted a misconception to others for instance sleepwalkers are walking with their eyes closed and arms stretched out. Conversely, they open their eyes while they walk around so they can see where they are going and often with a glazed look on their faces (Mishra, 2009).
An illustration of this is a 12 years old Portuguese male, Jason. According to this real case, his father has reported to clinic that Jason had a 3 years history of sleepwalking every night. He has met all criteria for the diagnosis of sleepwalking such as Jason would have no memory of what he has done and he often start sleepwalking within 2 hours of falling asleep. In addition, Jason's father said that he would find Jason is sitting up in bed and talking to himself or walking around the house during sleepwalking. Sometimes, his father can find Jason in various rooms of the house at midnight and he normally would place Jason back to his bed without waking him (Frank, Spirito, Stark & Stively, 1999).
Besides that, as we all know that complex activities are more complicated than simple activities for instance dressing and undressing, drawing, moving furniture, washing clothes and even bathing (Konno, 1998). With the purpose of showing more detail information, there is another unbelievable sleepwalking story. Lee Hadwin who works as a nurse by day whereas becomes a "sleepwalking artist" at night that he has drawn a lot of unique and strange artworks which he has no recollection of drawing when he wakes up in the morning. Many galleries have been asking for his paintings in order to market on its great value. He is quite proud of this strange ability (Murano, 2009). Another example is totally different from the previous one is that sleepwalking makes Ian felt embarrassing. In 2005, Ian caught by his wife, Rebekah that he was mowing the lawn naked at 2a.m. The same thing is Ian did not believe Rebekah when she told him about this incident as he cannot remember a single thing when awake (Murano, 2009).
Although the percentage of sleepwalkers' injury is very low, but they still need to concern about their safety while they doing dangerous sleepwalking activities. Cooking and driving are examples of this activity. We can do it very well in awaken situation; nevertheless, it does not mean that we can handle it as nicely while sleepwalking (Vandelay, 2002). Robert Wood 's case is an addition case to illustrate in dangerous activity. Robert Wood who is a 55 years old chef and he has been sleepwalking for 40 years. He tend to get up four or five times a week and go to the kitchen to cook omelettes, stir fries and chips to satisfy his hunger. His wife is worrying about his husband safety and health problems such as having accidents like he might forget to turn off the gas after cooking or he keeps eating during night time will lead to obesity (Murano, 2009).
In addition, there is a serious case has happened during May 23, 1987 based on dangerous sleepwalking activities. A 23 years old Toronto man, Kenneth Park got in his car and drove around 23 kilometres to his in-laws' home. He had a very good relationship with his in laws and his mother-in-law who had once called him as "a gentle giant" but during sleepwalking, his mother-in-law was stabbing to death by him and he also assaulted his father-in-law, who survived in the attack. Lastly, Park managed to drive himself to the police station and admitted what he has done. He only realised that he had severely cut in his own hands at that time (James, 2010). After that, he cannot remember anything about the night. "A gentle giant" became a murderer is a sad and pity case in 1987.
Furthermore, violent gestures, grabbing at hallucinated objects and even homicides are fall in violent activity (Wikia, n.d). Gesture uses the movement of hands, face and other parts of body to replace speech or use with spoken words. Violent gestures can be kicking, beating and slapping (Cartwright, 2004). Some says that sleepwalking is murder on relationships. As an example, a Canadian sleepwalker whose use violent gesture during night-time towards his wife has affected his relationship with his wife as she has no chance to has a good night sleep almost every day (Bellman, 2006).
The Oxford Dictionary (ed. 1) defines homicide as "the act of human killing another human". It is quite scary that sleepwalking also can carry out homicidal activity. According to a historic case around 1630, a physician Jan Jonston has got up while asleep, swam across the river Seine and killed a man by his sword. Unexpectedly, the man has been killed by him is the person he planned to murder the day before. After that, he crossed back the river to his home, eventually getting to his bed and without awaking (Kiff, n.d).
Another case is known as Falater's case. Scott Falater was murdering his wife by stabbing her 44 times in 1997. This is cruel and violent to a human being. According to an eyewitness, Falater was also holding his wife's head under water. This is weird that he even changed his clothes and tried to hide all the items which can show that he was the person who killed his wife during his sleepwalking (Kiff, n.d).
Last but not least, sexual activity is one of the sleepwalking activities that have been identified. Sleepwalking sexual activity also called sexsomnia or sleep sex is considered that this kind of sleepwalkers will do sexual acts with the people they know or just a stranger. The sexual acts include anal, oral and vaginal penetration (Parasomnias, 1999). A report has figured out that majority people with sexsomnia have a history of parasomnia and a family history of sleepwalking. A recent case in England is reported that the defendant based on 3 charges of rape has been acquitted as he is a sleepwalker of sexual behaviour (Clin, 2006).
Another illustration of this is occurring in 2007, Alan Ball went to a house party. He was drinking heavily and falling asleep on a sofa. He was sleepwalking on that night and he went upstairs of the house and climbed into bed to kiss the lips of an under-age girl. However, he has been absolved based on he is a sleepwalker at the time of the incident and had no memory of the events (Murano, 2009).
Despite all these cases about sexsomnia, this example has treated as a rare case in 2004 which a woman having sex with strangers while sleepwalking. This sleepwalker from Australia left her house and had sexual intercourse with strangers at night while asleep. The most worsen part is this behavior has been continued for several months and no one is discovered this problem since she had no memory of her what she did. Then, she only realised it by seeing condoms that scattered around the house and it has alerted the problem to her and her partner. One night, her partner awoke and knew that she is missing again. He went searching for her and found her engaged in the sex act (Murano, 2009). No matter what, she is successfully stopped her night-time excursions after accepting psychiatric counselling.
In a nutshell, somnambulism or sleepwalking can be a life threatening for some or a constant irritation for others. As we all know that, sleep is a necessity for our physical and mental well being. Sleep allows our bodies to rest and our brains to recharge for the purpose of having more spaces to absorb new information. So, when a sleep disorder occurs it can affect a great percentage of human life directly. In writing this research paper, I am able to understand how sleepwalking affects a person and understand that a good night sleep is essential and important for everyone.
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