Sleep violence - Forensic science implications: Polygraphic and video documentation

M. W. Mahowald, S. R. Bundlie, T. D. Hurwitz, C. H. Schenck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


During the past century, infrequent, anecdotal reports of sleep-related violence with forensic science implications have appeared. Recent rapid developments in the field of sleep-disorders medicine have resulted in greater understanding of a variety of sleep-related behaviors, and formal sleep-behavior monitoring techniques have permitted their documentation and classification. Sleep-related violence can be associated with a number of diagnosable and treatable sleep disorders, including (1) night terrors/sleepwalking, (2) nocturnal seizures, (3) rapid eye movement (REM) sleep-behavior disorder, (4) sleep drunkenness, and (5) psychogenic dissociative states occurring during the sleep period. Potentially violent automatized behavior, without consciousness, can and does occur during sleep. The violence resulting from these disorders may be misinterpreted as purposeful suicide, assault, or even homicide. Sleep-related violence must be added to the list of automatisms. A classification system of both waking and sleep-related automatic behavior is proposed, with recommendations for assessment of such behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-432
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1990


  • Forensic science
  • Sleep disorders
  • Violence


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