By Raising Children Network
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Boy in pyjamas with eyes closed credit iStockphoto.com/Franck Boston

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Sleepwalking happens during deep sleep. Someone in deep sleep is hard to wake up and might feel quite drowsy when they do wake up.

 
Sleepwalking is when your child gets out of bed and walks around as if he’s awake, but he’s actually asleep. Sleepwalking doesn’t hurt your child, and most children grow out of it.

About sleepwalking

If your child sleepwalks, she might get out of bed and walk around as if she’s awake, but she won’t respond normally to you, or anything around her.

Sleepwalking often happens in the first few hours of the night. When it happens, your child’s mind is asleep but his body is awake at the same time.

Your sleepwalking child might:

  • move about in her bed
  • walk around the house
  • do simple tasks like setting the table or getting dressed
  • try to talk, but the conversation probably won’t make sense
  • have her eyes open, with a glassy stare
  • get upset, but she won’t remember it in the morning
  • let herself out of the house and wander around outside.

Sleepwalking might happen once or twice each month or up to a couple of times each night. It can happen with sleeptalking and night terrors.

Sleepwalking is quite common. Around 7-15% of children sleepwalk. Children aged 4-12 years are more likely to sleepwalk, and they often grow out of it as teenagers. Both boys and girls sleepwalk.

Sleepwalking can be upsetting for you to watch, but try not to worry – your child is OK. Sleepwalking isn’t usually a sign that there’s something wrong emotionally or psychologically.

Causes of sleepwalking

Sleepwalking runs in some families, and is usually also related to age and development. Some other things can increase your child’s sleepwalking. These include:

If you’re worried that your child’s sleepwalking might be caused by an illness or medical condition, talk with your health professional.

Managing sleepwalking

Sleepwalking usually doesn’t need treatment, and most children grow out of it when they reach puberty.

Here are some tips on what to do when your child sleepwalks:

  • Stay calm and guide your child back to bed in a soothing manner. Avoid waking your child in case he gets upset. It might also take him a while to settle back to sleep if he wakes.
  • Make the environment safe. Check that all doors and windows are securely locked. Remove any tripping hazards from your child’s room and hallway.
  • Check that your child is getting enough sleep. An earlier bedtime, or a regular bedtime, might reduce sleepwalking.
  • Try to keep to a regular bedtime at times when your child might get overtired – for example, special school events.

If your child is going away overnight, tell the caregivers about the sleepwalking so they’ll know what to expect and can keep your child safe.

Getting professional help

If your child is sleepwalking at least once every night, it’s best to see your GP. Also see the GP if your child’s sleepwalking is affecting the night sleep of other family members, or if you’re worried your child might hurt herself while sleepwalking.

Your child might need some professional treatment, which could include medication or behaviour strategies.
 
 
 
  • Last updated or reviewed 20-11-2017
  • Acknowledgements This article was developed in collaboration with Dr Margot Davey and Dr Kate Simpson, Melbourne Children’s Sleep Centre.