Somnambulism: clinical aspects and pathophysiological hypotheses

Lancet Neurol. 2013 Mar;12(3):285-94. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(12)70322-8.


Somnambulism, or sleepwalking, can give rise to a wide range of adverse consequences and is one of the leading causes of sleep-related injury. Accurate diagnosis is crucial for proper management and imperative in an ever-increasing number of medicolegal cases implicating sleep-related violence. Unfortunately, several widely held views of sleepwalking are characterised by key misconceptions, and some established diagnostic criteria are inconsistent with research findings. The traditional idea of somnambulism as a disorder of arousal might be too restrictive and a comprehensive view should include the idea of simultaneous interplay between states of sleep and wakefulness. Abnormal sleep physiology, state dissociation, and genetic factors might explain the pathophysiology of the disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Chemistry / genetics
  • Humans
  • Somnambulism* / epidemiology
  • Somnambulism* / etiology
  • Somnambulism* / physiopathology