Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Violent Behaviors That Occur During Sleep Disorders Are Provoked, Study Suggests

Date:
August 3, 2007
Source:
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Summary:
Disorders of arousal (i.e., sleepwalking, confusional arousals and sleep terrors) have sometimes been associated with violent behaviors against other individuals. A preliminary review of possible triggers for violence during disorders of arousal finds that violent behavior most frequently appears to follow direct provocation by, or close proximity to, another individual.

Disorders of arousal (i.e., sleepwalking, confusional arousals and sleep terrors) have sometimes been associated with violent behaviors against other individuals. A preliminary review of possible triggers for violence during disorders of arousal finds that violent behavior most frequently appears to follow direct provocation by, or close proximity to, another individual, according to an article published in the August 1st issue of the journal Sleep.

The review, authored by Mark R. Pressman, PhD, of Sleep Medicine Services at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, Penn., was based on a review of 32 cases drawn from medical and legal literature. Each case contained a record of violence associated with disorders of arousal, as well as details of the violent behavior.

The review found that violent behaviors associated with provocations and/or close proximity were found to be present in 100 percent of confusional arousal patients and 81 percent of sleep terror patients. Violent behaviors were associated with provocation or close proximity in 40-90 percent of sleepwalking cases. The provocation was often quite minor, and the response exaggerated greatly.

According to the review, violent behavior occurs in slightly different ways in sleepwalking, confusional arousals and sleep terrors. In the case of sleepwalking, the violence occurs only after the sleepwalking episode has been triggered and is underway. During the sleepwalking episode, while moving about the environment, the sleepwalking individual encounters someone else -- most likely a family member. This person may approach or make physical contact with the sleepwalker, triggering a violent reaction.

With confusional arousals, violence may be precipitated in one of two ways. An individual may have a confusional arousal associated with complex behaviors but never leave the bed. The bed partner or parent may try to calm or restrain the individual by grabbing or holding them. More often, a confusional arousal occurs when someone attempts to awaken a sleeping individual in bed.

Sleep terrors differ from sleepwalking and confusional arousals in that the individual appears to react to some type of frightening image. The individual may act in an improper or agitated manner without regard to reality. If another individual is encountered or is in close proximity, violent behavior may occur.

Dr. Pressman noted that, despite the findings made in the review, the overwhelming majority of sleepwalking, confusional arousal and sleep terror episodes do not involve aggression or violence.

"There is no evidence that individuals with these disorders are inherently violent or predetermined to seek out victims," said Pressman. "Episodes of sleepwalking related violence against other individuals almost never occur more than once. At least among the cases reported here, the majority describe close proximity or direct provocation before violent behaviors. It is possible that the absence of physical contact or proximity to other individuals is the only factor that distinguishes violent sleepwalkers from nonviolent sleepwalkers. This suggests under the right circumstances that any sleepwalker might respond to a perceived threat or close proximity with violence. Families are frequently advised to not touch or grab sleepwalkers during episodes as they may resist physically."

Sleepwalking occurs when you get up from bed and walk around even though you are still asleep. It can also involve a series of other complex actions. Sleepwalking is more common in children and affects both boys and girls. It can begin as soon as a child is able to walk. The rate of it in children is as high as 17 percent. It peaks by the time they are eight to 12 years old. Most children with it also had confusional arousals at a younger age.

Rarely, sleepwalking may begin at any time in the adult life, even when someone is in their seventies. Up to four percent of adults sleepwalk. In adults, men are much more likely to display aggressive behavior when they sleepwalk. Your chance of sleepwalking can increase if one or both parents had sleepwalking episodes as a child or adult.

Confusional arousals take place when you are waking up, or just after waking up. You act in a way that is very strange and confused. It appears that you don't know where you are or what you are doing. Your behavior may consist of slow speech, confused thinking, poor memory or blunt responses to questions or requests. Confusional arousals occur at the same rate among both men and women. Rates are high among children and adults under the age of 35. It may occur in as many as 17 percent of children. About three to four percent of adults have confusional arousals. You are more likely to have this disorder if a relative also has it.

Sleep terrors is also called "night terrors". In a typical episode, you will sit up in bed and pierce the night with a "blood-curdling" scream or shout. This scream can include kicking and thrashing. You may say or shout things that others are unable to understand. You will also have a look of intense fear with eyes wide open and heart racing. You may also sweat, breathe heavily and be very tense. At times, you may even bolt out of bed and run around the house. This response is more common in adults. It may also lead to violent actions.

Sleep terrors are more common in children, and affects males and females equally. It may affect as many as 6.5 percent of all children. It tends to begin when a child is four to 12 years old. Children with sleep terrors will often talk in their sleep and sleepwalk. In rare cases, it can begin in adulthood. Overall, only about 2.2 percent of adults have it. Very few people over the age of 65 have sleep terrors. There is a strong genetic and family link. It can occur in several members of the same family.

Those who suspect they might be suffering from a sleep disorder are urged to consult with their primary care doctor or a sleep specialist.

The article is entitled, "Disorders of Arousal From Sleep and Violent Behavior: The Role of Physical Contact and Proximity."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "Violent Behaviors That Occur During Sleep Disorders Are Provoked, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070801091411.htm>.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2007, August 3). Violent Behaviors That Occur During Sleep Disorders Are Provoked, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070801091411.htm
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "Violent Behaviors That Occur During Sleep Disorders Are Provoked, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070801091411.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) A Florida doctor who helped fight the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa says the disease can be stopped, but only if nations quickly step up their response and make border control a priority. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) More than 100 tons of medical supplies were sent to West Africa on Saturday, but aid workers say the global response is still sluggish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins