Chris Hyndman: What you need to know about the dangers of sleepwalking

WATCH ABOVE: Dr. Brian Murray, a sleep specialist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, explains what causes sleepwalking and the dangers it poses to people who suffer from it.

He was a sleepwalker and even ate in his sleep – the grieving mother of Canadian television host Chris Hyndman is convinced her son died while sleepwalking on the terrace of his Toronto penthouse apartment.

The 49-year-old host of CBC’s Steven and Chris was found dead late Monday night in an alleyway behind his Riverdale home. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Glenda Hyndman said her son grappled with sleepwalking.

“Christopher was a sleepwalker, and he did that a lot. He even ate in his sleep,” Hyndman’s mom told the newspaper during a telephone interview from Moose Jaw, Sask.

“He was the most incredible human being and best son you could ever have. I think his light was so bright it just…it just burned out,” she said.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Mother of Chris Hyndman believes son may have died sleepwalking

Glenda says her son’s on-screen partner and spouse, Steven Sabados, went to bed Monday night and was awakened when police knocked on his door to tell him what happened.

WATCH ABOVE: There’s new insight into the death of CBC host Chris Hyndman. Friends and family say they believe sleepwalking may have contributed to his death.

Hyndman was pronounced dead at the scene near Broadview Avenue and Queen Street.

With few details about the incident or on Hyndman’s health, sleep experts can’t speculate on his case. But they say that parasomnias –  sleep disorders that could trigger walking, eating, and other activities  while you sleep – could lead to dangerous occurrences.

“If sleepwalking occurs during adult life, it’s always concerning and there is something else going on and should be investigated,” according to Dr. Brian Murray, a sleep specialist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

READ MORE: Fans, friends across Canada pay tribute to Chris Hyndman

WATCH ABOVE: Glady Bell, a family friend of Chris Hyndman, says the design show host had a problem with sleepwalking

Psychiatrist Dr. Colin Shapiro, who conducts sleep research at Toronto Western Hospital, says that about 15 per cent of kids deal with parasomnia. They usually outgrow it in their preteens.

Story continues below advertisement

Another three to five per cent of adults experience walking, talking, driving, eating, even have sex, in their sleep.

“In simple terms, part of the brain is awake and part of it is asleep. The part that judges your consciousness and awareness of what you’re doing is totally lacking,” he explained to Global News.

A patient could walk in his or her sleep into the kitchen, place a metal pan into the microwave and leave the room. When he or she wakes up, a family member may ask what happened.

“People who sleepwalk could have no clue,” he said.

READ MORE: Chris Hyndman of CBC’s ‘Steven and Chris’ dead at 49

In most cases, it’s a bit of a nuisance, but in extreme cases, it could lead to dangerous consequences.

“You’re in a between state where people have a partial awakening. You can carry out motor movements that are basic, such as wander in a familiar environment. In extreme cases, it can be complex, like unlocking a door and leaving the house,” according to Dr. Colleen Carney, a Ryerson University professor and sleep expert.

“Any complex behaviour is very rare and very extreme,” Carney explained.

WATCH ABOVE: Hyndman’s body was found near his East End Toronto home Monday night. Jennifer Tryon reports.

There are two main kinds of sleepwalking: one happens during slow-wave sleep, which could be a sign of sleep apnea, periodic limb movements or even seizures. The other occurs during rapid eye movement or REM sleep, which people are more likely to recall.

Story continues below advertisement

Typically, doctors hand patients behavioural and pharmacological therapy. They’re taught to lock doors so they don’t wander outside or stick to a sleep schedule. They may have prescription medication to help them sleep soundly through the evening, too.

Police have said an investigation into the death is ongoing but they are not seeking witnesses in connection with the incident.

READ MORE: Interrupted sleep just as bad for you as no sleep at all, study warns

The public broadcaster confirmed Hyndman’s death in a statement released Tuesday morning.

CBC, which immediately pulled Steven and Chris from its schedule, has since set up a memorial in the atrium of its Toronto headquarters.

The broadcaster said late Tuesday it also plans a celebration of Hyndman’s life at a later date.

With a file from John R. Kennedy and Adam Miller