A new study of sleepwalkers found an intriguing paradox: Although sleepwalkers have an increased risk for headaches and migraines while awake, during sleepwalking episodes they don’t feel pain if they suffer an injury.
A research team at Hospital Gui-de-Chauliac in Montpellier, France, studied 100 healthy people and 100 sleepwalkers and discovered that sleepwalkers were nearly four times more likely to suffer from headaches and 10 times more likely to have migraines.
But among the sleepwalkers who reported having experienced at least one injury while sleepwalking, 79% perceived no pain during the episode, allowing them to remain asleep despite hurting themselves.
“Our most surprising result was the lack of pain perception during the sleepwalking episodes,” says principal investigator Regis Lopez, a psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist at Hospital Gui-de-Chauliac. “We report here, for the first time, an analgesia phenomenon associated with sleepwalking.” Study results were published in the November 2015 issue of the journal Sleep.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that sleepwalking—or somnambulism—affects up to 4% of adults.