Is sleepwalking a sign of dementia?

This question was asked in Bristol, Vermont on 10/30/2012.
My dad is 65 years old and he sleepwalks every night. He sometimes goes on and on about how he has to "fix things." He is on a no-carb diet and only eats meat, which means he probably has high cholesterol levels. His diet has been going on like this for a year and a half. Whenever he sleepwalks, he loves to snack on candy, too. I also know that there is a connection between high cholesterol levels and Alzheimer's disease, and his mother died 6 years ago in the throes of this disease. Could his sleepwalking and diet have any connection to the beginning signs of memory loss or Alzheimer's disease?

Doctors Answers (3)

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 11/2/2012

Sleep walking is not necessarily a sign of dementia. We see it in children and it can be a lifelong problem. Acting out dreams, however, is associated with degenerative diseases of the brain which can be associated with dementia. It is important to determine in which stage of sleep does the walking occur. A sleep history may give the answer but if he walks every night then a sleep study would be helpful. Some medications are associated with sleep walking. More information is needed.

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 10/31/2012

Sleepwalking or somnambulism is not a feature of dementia per se but with any neurodegenerative disease parasomnias such as this are more common. REM sleep Behavior Disorder is the most common one and is effectively treated with medication. Restless Leg syndrome can manifest in Alzheimers as well and is a common cause of night time wandering. Insomnia and nightmare and night terrors are also seen in these patient as the neurodegenerative disease progresses.

Marjorie Yong, M.D.
Answered on: 10/31/2012

Absolutely. His diet and sleep abnormality can mimic dementia. It is very important to have your father tested right away with a sleep test. Hang in there... He will be fine...just make sure to bring him in for a sleep evaluation.