FOX 26 Houston - A local family is terrorized because of sleepwalking. They are desperate for answers and urge you to let them know if you know how or where they can get help. The nightmare of sleepwalking plays out in real life for Javier Olmedo in the forms of falling out of bed, banging into walls, slamming his head into doors, and jumping out of a two-story window. "My family is terrified and scared for me. I'm scared for myself! I don't know what to do," Javier exclaims.
Javier has undergone multiple sleep studies, has seen many doctors, but so far, no one knows why he sometimes gets so active at night. He set up a camera in his bedroom and can't believe how he acts, because he doesn't ever remember these terrifying situations. Javier admits it looks like he's impaired by alcohol, but says that is absolutely NOT the case. "I don't drink, I don't smoke, I'm really active, I play sports usually three to four times a week, and I don't take any medication. I take vitamins, but no medications," says Javier.
He goes on to explain that he was first diagnosed with insomnia, then MILD sleep apnea. At first, doctors told him to just lose a few pounds to reduce the problem. He lost the weight, but his sleep apnea kept getting worse. Even though he now uses a CPAP machine to treat sleep apnea, his terror-walks continue and happen every five to six weeks. "With this last episode, I was struggling to breathe with sleep apnea, I get up again and I'm feeling my way with my hands, it's so dark, its pitch black, I can't see. I hit walls, my dresser, can't keep my balance, and I have black eyes because I'm hitting the walls," says Javier.
Javier is the father of two young children and his family is extremely concerned about him. His wife sets her alarm every morning at three, to help keep him safe. His bedroom windows are boarded up, his door is locked... but she sits outside the door, anxiously ready to follow him and ward-off danger, if he starts to sleepwalk. "I feel worried, hopeless, I love my husband. I want to see him healthy again. I want him to be safe, healthy, and I want to be back to what we had," says his wife, Magdalena.
The episodes last 20 to 25 minutes. Even though his eyes are open, no one can wake him up. They've tried shaking him, even throwing ice water on him... but that only makes it worse. "It makes me upset and I try to defend myself because I think I'm getting attacked. I don't recognize anybody! She's my wife - or friends - and I wouldn't know who they are," says Javier.
Magdalena says their son is starting to get old enough to realize how serious the situation is. They just want Javier to get his life back. "He's an amazing guy, an amazing guy! He plays with the kids, he cares about the kids, he has a very special bond with the kids," says Magdalena
This family says they need a treatment to help stop the terror. Javier has suffered serious injuries and is fearful he could get in trouble for trespassing onto someone's property. "I'm hoping somebody else has gone through what I'm going through now and maybe give me advice on what they did to get this resolved," says Javier. "That's my hope! That by sharing our story, someone can reach out to us, someone can help, maybe they have a doctor who can guide us in the right direction," says Magdalena.
"I went to a neurologist and they did all kinds of studies, EEG and MRI, had some bloodwork done. Everything came out normal. They didn't know what to do! They referred me to another sleep study, and I did it," explains Javier. Now Javier traveled from his home in Humble, TX to his homeland of El Salvador, in search of medical help.
Dr. Philip Alapat from Baylor College of Medicine explains sleepwalking. "Your brain is not completely awakened from sleep, it's partially awake enough that you can do some things that are considered routine, so you can get up out of bed, you can walk, perhaps go to grab food out of fridge, those kinds of things," says Dr. Alapat.
Dr. Alapat says you shouldn't try to wake someone up during sleepwalking because they may lash out and hurt themselves or the person trying to wake them up. He says medication is sometimes prescribed, but has to be tailored to each patient. "If we have to reach that stage, then REM suppressive medications, meaning we recognize that these medications cause suppression of REM sleep and we use it and tailor it to the individual, depending when they usually have their sleepwalking episode during their sleep period," explains Dr. Alapat.
Dr. Amie Stringfellow, with Milepost Medical, trained under Dr. Alapat at Baylor College of Medicine. She says sleep deprivation, stress, and sleep disruptions can cause sleepwalking. She encourages patients to look at their environment, make sure it's quiet, peaceful, and kept at a cool temperature, with no interruptions from pets, etc.
Dr. Jerald H. Simmons with Comprehensive Sleep Medicine Associates (CSMA) says if Javier was his patient, he would assess him for REM behavior disorder, since Javier's episodes always happen between 4-6 am, toward the end of the sleep cycle. He says this is sometimes treated with a prescription drug often used to treat Alzheimer's Disease. He believes Javier may be able to find peace, with the right medication.
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