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Neurology. 2008 Jun 10;70(24):2284-90. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000304082.49839.86. Epub 2008 May 7.

Precipitating factors of somnambulism: impact of sleep deprivation and forced arousals.

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Centre d'Etude du Sommeil, Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur, Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada.



Experimental attempts to induce sleepwalking with forced arousals during slow-wave sleep (SWS) have yielded mixed results in children and have not been investigated in adult patients. We hypothesized that the combination of sleep deprivation and external stimulation would increase the probability of inducing somnambulistic episodes in sleepwalkers recorded in the sleep laboratory. The main goal of this study was to assess the effects of forced arousals from auditory stimuli (AS) in adult sleepwalkers and control subjects during normal sleep and following post-sleep deprivation recovery sleep.


Ten sleepwalkers and 10 controls were investigated. After a baseline night, participants were presented with AS at predetermined sleep stages either during normal sleep or recovery sleep following 25 hours of sleep deprivation. One week later, the conditions with AS were reversed.


No somnambulistic episodes were induced in controls. When compared to the effects of AS during sleepwalkers' normal sleep, the presentation of AS during sleepwalkers' recovery sleep significantly increased their efficacy in experimentally inducing somnambulistic events and a significantly greater proportion of sleepwalkers (100%) experienced at least one induced episode during recovery SWS as compared to normal SWS (30%). There was no significant difference between the mean intensity of AS that induced episodes during sleepwalkers' SWS and the mean intensity of AS that awakened sleepwalkers and controls from SWS.


Sleep deprivation and forced arousals during slow-wave sleep can induce somnambulistic episodes in predisposed adults. The results highlight the potential value of this protocol in establishing a video-polysomnographically based diagnosis for sleepwalking.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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