Sleepwalking in Children

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Sleepwalking or “somnambulism” is a sleep disorder which affects many children. Some people sleepwalk on a regularly while others may only sleepwalk once in their life. Persistent sleepwalking although not directly harmful can cause problems. Accidents are more likely if people are in unfamiliar environments as they don’t know out of habit where objects are and are more likely to bump into them or fall.

Sleepwalking can have an impact on people of all ages but children and teenagers are more likely to as they spend more of their sleep time in deep sleep. If you have a relative who sleepwalks it may be more likely your child will too, as it can run in the family.

When we think of sleepwalking we picture someone wandering around the house while asleep, but this is often not the case. Many people simply sit up suddenly when they are woken from a deep sleep, while others may walk around the home, climb up or down stairs and even carry out everyday activities such as getting dressed or preparing breakfast. Some people may even attempt to drive or operate machinery and this is obviously dangerous.

Sleepwalkers nearly always have their eyes open and they may look completely awake even though they are actually asleep and the eyes are glazed. If you come across your child sleepwalking, try to guide them gently back to bed. They may feel confused and disorientated and once woken are less likely to go straight back to sleep. Most people who sleepwalk do not remember sleepwalking in the morning.

Luckily children only sleepwalk for around 5-10 minutes. Sometimes you can talk to someone who is sleepwalking, but they often seem confused or dazed and it’s best to just guide them to bed.

Why do people sleepwalk?

It is not known exactly why some people sleepwalk. Yet some common events and conditions have been identified that seem to increase the likelihood of a person sleepwalking, including:

  • Disturbed sleep.
  • Fever and illness.
  • Taking certain types of medication, including antihistamines and sleeping tablets.

 

Precautions you should take to protect a sleepwalking child:

If your child regularly sleepwalks, you should to take steps to protect them.

  • Remove potentially dangerous objects such as sharp knives
  • Clear stairways and corridors.
  • Lock windows and front and back doors.
  • Cover sharp corners with padding.

If sleepwalking is affecting daily life or causing problems arrange to see your doctor.