Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Sleepwalking, night terrors, and consciousness.

British Medical Journal 1990; 300 doi: (Published 10 February 1990) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1990;300:360
  1. A H Crisp,
  2. B M Matthews,
  3. M Oakey,
  4. M Crutchfield
  1. Academic Department of Psychiatry, St George's Hospital Medical School, London.


    OBJECTIVE--To determine some personality and psychoneurotic characteristics of adults who have the sleepwalking-night terrors syndrome. DESIGN--Prospective assessment of two groups of consecutive patients with a firm diagnosis of either of two specific sleep disorders as established clinically and by polysomnography. SETTING--Outpatient sleep disorders clinic and sleep laboratory in a tertiary referral centre. PATIENTS--12 Patients referred consecutively to the clinic in whom a diagnosis of sleepwalking (six) or night terrors (six) was confirmed. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Psychological characteristics as measured at the time of clinical assessment by means of the Eysenck personality questionnaire, the hostility and direction of hostility questionnaire, and the Crown-Crisp experiential index. RESULTS--Both groups scored exceptionally highly on the hysteria scale of the Crown-Crisp experiential index and the night terrors group also scored highly on the anxiety scale. The patients with sleepwalking also scored highly on a measure of externally directed hostility. CONCLUSIONS--The physiological and psychological features identified in these patients, possibly reflecting different expressions of a constitutional cerebral characteristic, may be explored in terms of hysterical dissociation. The findings contribute to the debate concerning the nature of sleepwalking, in particular with and without the forensic aspects.