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One of the interesting sleep disorder is sleep walking. The medical, or more scientific, term for sleep walking is somnambulism. The characteristic symptoms are walking or exhibiting other activities while seemingly still asleep. (1) I became interested in researching this topic, because I sleep walk. I sleep walk only when I am under stress, which is not often. However, it is one of my primary concerns because I exhibit an extremely violent behavior. I began my research by looking for the relationship between somnambulism and the brain. I found that they are related, but the details are still under research. Then, I looked for the cause, however, since the detailed mechanism of the brain during sleep walking is not defined, a specific cause and effect was also not clearly defined. Thus, this paper will include the information that the researchers have obtained so far, the type of experiments that have been done, and the problems in obtaining more information about somnambulism.
The term somnambulism comes from the Latin words for sleep (somnus) and walking (ambulus). A typical sleepwalking episode is rather short. Sleepwalkers may simply appear awake, or exhibit complicated activity such as driving a car, while asleep. (2)
The researchers have been using a device called the Electroencephalogram (EEG) to understand sleep and sleep disorders. This device measures the electromagnetic waves that are emitted from the brain at various locations around the head. These waves are amplified and fed to a plotter, which plots the amplitude of the waves over time. This device identified four stages of sleep.(3)
The first sleep state, before the four stages, is pre-sleep. The EEG reading of an active and awake person shows mainly beta waves, which are low-amplitude, high frequency waves. Beta waves are associated with conscious thought. As a person begins to fall asleep, the EEG reading becomes punctuated with alpha waves, which are regular waves of higher amplitude. Alpha waves are associated with a relaxed mind. The first stage of sleep shows similar beta waves as the first sleep state, except at a lower frequency. As time progresses within stage 1, there is a gradual lowering of frequency and simultaneous increase of amplitude. The second stage of sleep show two characteristic waves. K-complexes consist of a single large amplitude wave, and Sleep spindles are 1-2 second bursts of very high frequency irregular waves. The third stage shows infrequent intrusion of delta waves, which have high amplitude and a low frequency.
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1. http://www.healthanswers.com/database/ami/converted/000808. html