Sleepwalking is a behavior characterized by partial arousal during slow wave sleep. The potential adverse health outcomes of sleepwalking are injury to the sleepwalker themselves or to others as a result of impaired perception - characteristic of sleepwalking. The most sensationalized of these adverse events come to the public’s attention, otherwise sleepwalking largely goes unnoticed and may not get routinely reported to any health service.
Sleepwalking is thought to be a common arousal disorder; however, it has not yet been systematically examined. A recent study performed by Stallman HM and Kohler M in 2016 attempts to fill this gap. This systematic review included more than 100 000 people from 51 studies to identify the prevalence rate of sleepwalking in adults and children.
Sleepwalking has been reported in children as young as two years and throughout adulthood. The lifetime prevalence for sleepwalking was 6.9%. This does not vary significantly between childhood and adulthood, suggesting that relatively few people start sleepwalking later in life. This is consistent with adult onset of sleepwalking being associated with medications and neurodegenerative diseases.
The current rate of sleepwalking was higher in children 5.0% than in adults 1.5%. This difference may be the result of methodological issues or the decrease in slow wave sleep evident between childhood and adulthood. The combined child and adult data supports the notion that sleepwalking behavior is a relatively common occurrence sometime during the lifespan.