Ask mr Brain...all will be explained

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 December, 1999, 12:00am

What causes sleepwalking? ARIANNA PLK Lee Shing Pik College Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a sleep disorder which most commonly affects children between the age of six and 12 and is usually a response to an emotional concern. It is more common in boys than girls, and is estimated to affect one to six per cent of children.

Sleepwalking is not just walking, but includes various activities a person performs during a state of altered consciousness. They can vary from moving furniture to eating and dressing. It occurs when a person is in a mixed state of being both asleep and awake or coming from the deepest stage of non-dreaming sleep. This means a person is awake enough to act out complex behaviours but still asleep and not aware of or able to remember these actions.

It usually happens during the first few hours after a person falls asleep and can last from five to 30 minutes. A sleepwalker has a blank expression and opened eyes and is usually difficult to awaken. He may wake up spontaneously but is usual ly disoriented. Sleepwalking sometimes runs in the family.

In children, sleepwalking is more likely to happen when they have a fever or are over-tired. It can also be caused by some medicines. It does not mean the child has emotional or psychological problems unless there is some other stress in the child's life.

Most children outgrow sleepwalking by their teens or early 20s. It can occasionally persist into adulthood or even begin in adulthood.

In adults, sleepwalking can be caused by stress or triggered by other conditions, such as sleep apnea, heartburn or periodic limb movement during sleep. Adults should seek medical attention. A sleep specialist would evaluate the patient's behaviours and medical history.

Treatment may involve drugs or behaviour modification through hypnosis or psychiatric intervention.

Sleepwalkers should make sure they get plenty of rest because over- tiredness can cause sleepwalking. Meditating or doing relaxation exer cises before going to bed also helps as sleepwalking can be triggered by stress.

Why do we get goose pimples? Goose bumps, or goose-flesh, are caused by a contraction of a muscle that is located around a hair follicle.

Just as when a person flexes the arm to show off biceps muscles, a bulge is created when the tiny muscle around a hair follicle contracts. As a result, the skin gets that bumpy look and hairs stand on end.

What stimulates it is a cold chill or if one gets excited, experts say. These muscles around hair follicles are involuntary. They just react when the right stimuli come along.

When the short hairs on arms and legs stand on end, it is very noticeable, but the same thing happens to the hair on our heads.