Last night, I watched “Step Brothers” with some friends. In one particular scene, the audience learns that two step brothers (Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly) both suffer from sleep walking. Despite public myth that sleep walking is associated with enacting out dreams, and is in reality a behavioral manifestation of REM behavior disorder (see previous blog “The Truths about Pathological Sleep and Dreaming per The Penguin Dictionary” for more information), sleep walking actually results from neuronal misfiring during NREM sleep, particularly deep, slow wave sleep.
Why? In contrast to REM sleep where the brain is highly active, yet muscles are paralyzed, NREM sleep is characterized by a relatively low rate of brain activity, but enablement of locomotion. Sometimes, neurons misfire, the brain is commanded to move, and hence, sleep walking ensues. In other cases, sleep walking is a underlying symptom of nocturnal sleep-related eating behavior disorder (or NEDS) in which an individual not only sleep walks, but sleep walks to the kitchen to consume highly caloric foods. Of course, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly dramatize NEDS, just a little.