Zombie Notions of Sleepwalking Put to Rest

Researchers at the University of Montreal examined a wide swath of literature, concluding that much of sleepwalkers’ behavior comes down to myth. For example, sleepwalkers sometimes remember what they have done on their night time sojourns.

Antonio Zadra, of the University of Montreal, worked with colleagues at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Sleep Medicine at the Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal, with findings published in Lancet Neurology “”Somnambulism: clinical aspects and pathophysiological hypotheses” Read Summary

“In adults, a high proportion of sleepwalkers occasionally remember what they did during their sleepwalking episodes,” said Zadra via University of Montreal press release “Some even remember what they were thinking and the emotions they felt.”

Zadra concludes that the behavior of sleepwalkers is not simply a zombie-like automatic function. “There is a misconception that sleepwalkers do things without knowing why,” he said. “However, there is a significant proportion of sleepwalkers who remember what they have done and can explain the reasons for their actions.”

Both children and adults are in a state of so-called dissociated arousal during wandering episodes—with parts of the brain asleep, while other parts are awake. “There are elements of wakefulness since sleepwalkers can perform actions such as washing, opening and closing doors, or going down stairs,” added Zadra. “Their eyes are open and they can recognize people. But there are also elements specific to sleep: sleepwalkers’ judgment and their ability for self-thought are altered, and their behavioral reactions are nonsensical.”


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