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Somnambulism—from the Latin somnus (sleep) and ambulus (walking)—involves involuntary motor acts—particularly walking—during sleep. Research indicates that sleepwalking is a normal phenomenon, although it may be more prevalent among these under a lot of stress. Somnambulism occurs most often in pubescence (ages ten to fourteen years), and there is also a genetic component (some families exhibit a greater tendency to sleepwalk than others). There appears to be a relationship between somnambulistic and hypnotic states.
A typical sleepwalking episode is rather short, rarely exceeding thirty minutes. Although seemingly oblivious to external reality, sleepwalkers typically manage to avoid running into objects. They usually make their way back to bed successfully, but sometimes they lie down on the floor or a couch at the conclusion of an active episode.
Contrary to what one might expect, somnambulistic behavior occurs only during the deepest levels of sleep (Stage 4), rather than during the most active dreaming periods. People awakened in the midst of or at the conclusion of a sleepwalking episode are dazed and confused. They are unable to recall dreams that might conceivably be connected with the walking episode, or any part of the actual somnambulistic experience.