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Health & Wellness
On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

Genetic Factors Make Some People More Susceptible To Sleepwalking

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Sleep disorders keep many people from getting a good night's rest. Neurologist Dr. Guy Leschziner joins Think host Krys Boyd to talk about sleepwalking and why some people find themselves driving, eating or cooking in their sleep. His new book is called, “The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience, and the Secret World of Sleep.”

Leschziner says sleepwalking is exceedingly common in children. When it persists into adulthood, it may be linked to genetics.

"People have an underlying genetic predisposition to a brain state whereby part of their brain is awake, and part of their brain is in very deep sleep," Leschziner says. "What we know happens is that during this state, the part of the brain called the frontal lobes, which is really the seat of our rational thinking... remains in very deep sleep...."

Leschziner says there is some truth to the common perception that it's best not to wake a sleepwalker.

What you want to try and avoid particularly in adults... is try not to wake somebody up who's been sleepwalking because that might be dangerous to them," he says. "Occasionally, [we see] what has been described as people becoming violent or aggressive when they've been woken up, so gently guiding them back to sleep and back to the bed is probably the best way of dealing with them."