Children between ages 6 and 12 suffer most from sleepwalking, or somnambulism. However, anyone younger or older can experience it, and sometimes sleepwalking runs in families. While this is generally a harmless state, continued occurrences should be addressed with the help of a physician. The individual does not remember actions taken, and appears to be awake, yet is not. Also injuries do happen in the form of tripping or loss of balance,
The individual goes from light drowsiness to deep sleep in a normal sleep cycle. He or she usually experiences a few rounds of non-REM and REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. During deeper REM sleep the eyes move rapidly and the individual dreams vividly. Sleepwalking, however, mostly occurs earlier in the cycle during non-REM sleep; sometimes it can closer to the morning hours nearing wakefulness.
The sleepwalker is really asleep when he or she sits up, gets up, and walks about. Sometimes the individual uses the bathroom, get dressed, moves furniture, or even drives a car, all while asleep. The sleepwalking can last just seconds, or 30 minutes or more. It is not normally harmful to wake the person, and the individual may feel disoriented when he or she wakes. However, there have been incidents of violence and screaming associated with sleepwalking.