Sleep walkers tend to get a glazed expression, their eyes are open but they are not aware of what they are doing, and they are kind of unconsciously stumbling around.
Contrary to popular belief it is not dangerous to wake somebody from walking in their sleep, however they will generally be very confused and disoriented on waking.
According to sleep experts only about 10% of the adult population experience walking in their sleep to any degree.
Children experience it more often with up to 17% of children, mostly boys, having experienced it at some point.
It can run in families and alcohol, drugs or stress can influence it.
People who experience this disorder almost never recall the events of the night and can quite often go back to sleep in locations other than their beds.
Experts have claimed that there appears to be no serious threat from walking in your sleep, but depending on the activities undertaken, injury can be a concern.
Believe it or not but this disorder has been used as a defense in quite a few murder cases throughout history.
The good news is…most sleep walkers do not kill people. Generally they will follow the same set routine whereby they dress or undress themselves, perhaps they rearrange items or they saunter around their living area.
The first recorded murder case and acquittal on the grounds of somnambulism was in 1846 when Albert Terrell murdered a prostitute and burned down a brothel. He was acquitted on the grounds that he didn’t know what he was doing due to being asleep when he committed the crimes.
In more recent years there have been several cases:
1987 Kenneth Parks drove to his mother-in-laws house 14 miles away and stabbed her to death, injured his father-in–law and then drove to the local police station and gave himself in, all while he was still asleep. He was acquitted on the grounds that he was not in control of his actions, as he was asleep.
2004 Stephen Reitz was accused of beating his lover Eva Weinfurtner to death while on vacation. Apparently, while in the middle of a dream about him fighting off an intruder, he beat her to death, and on discovering the body he gave himself in to the police. He had no recollection of the event.
In Stephen’s case he had a long history of the disorder and night terrors. When he was a child his parents installed alarms to alert them when he was walking about or had left the house.
Sleep eating can often times accompany sleep walking. Usually a person will begin with walking in their sleep but end up in some form of binge eating episode, only to wake up the next day without any recollection of the event bar the empty fridge and cupboards. Scientists believe that stress, depression, or low levels of melatonin in the brain cause this form of disorder.