Sleepwalking refers to a type of sleep disorder that involves walking while in a deep sleep. Sleepwalkers also perform other activities, such as sitting up in bed, opening the refrigerator, preparing food or even driving while asleep.
Sleepwalking is much more common in children than in adults. A recent survey found that around 1 percent of preschool children and 2 percent of school-aged children sleepwalk at least a few nights each week. Sleepwalking can be dangerous not only to the person performing the sleepwalking, but to others in the home. Because the person is in deep sleep throughout the episode, he or she usually will not have any memory of the activity.
Should I be concerned about my child’s sleepwalking?
Most sleepwalking is benign, meaning it is not harmful, and it usually decreases with age. A very small portion of children who sleepwalk may have another medical condition, such as epilepsy. Talk to your child’s doctor to rule out a more serious problem.
How do I manage my child’s sleepwalking?
Sometimes, steps as simple as improving sleep hygiene can help. This can include putting your child to bed at a consistent time every night, creating a relaxing routine before bedtime and getting their room at a comfortable temperature that’s neither too cold nor too hot. Learn how to improve your child’s sleep habits.
Sleepwalking can be dangerous to the sleepwalker. One important step that you can take to make the situation safer for the sleepwalker is to remove any sharp or dangerous objects from the room, such as glass vases or tables with sharp corners. A person who is a sleepwalker should always try to sleep on the first floor, or in a room without a balcony and a solid locked window. This will help the sleepwalker prevent injury.
Children who sleepwalk shouldn’t sleep in bunk beds. Locking doors and windows is also a strategy to promote safety, and door sensors can be installed that set off an alarm when opened. It also might be wise to install gates at the top of staircases to prevent dangerous falls.
A detailed consultation with one of our sleep specialists can help you identify the proper strategies for your family.