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 is quite common. Around 7-15% of children sleepwalk. Children aged 4-12 years are more likely to sleepwalk.
What to do when your child sleepwalks
If you wake up and realise your child is sleepwalking, stay calm.
Guide your child back to bed in a soothing way. Avoid waking your child in case he gets upset. It might also take him a while to settle back to sleep if he wakes.
Sleepwalking usually doesn’t need treatment, and most children grow out of it when they reach puberty.
Here are some tips for managing sleepwalking until your child grows out of it:
- Make the environment safe. Check that all doors and windows are securely locked. Remove any tripping hazards from your child’s room and hallway.
- Set up an alert to wake you when your child sleepwalks – for example, a bell on your child’s door, baby monitor or motion-activated light or buzzer.
- 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.
Sleepwalking can be upsetting for you to watch, but try not to worry. Sleepwalking isn’t usually a sign that there’s something emotionally or psychologically wrong with your child.
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.
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:
- lack of sleep because of poor sleep habits
- fever or other illness
- medical conditions that cause poor sleep – for example, epilepsy or obstructive sleep apnoea
- stress or anxiety.
If you’re worried that your child’s sleepwalking might be caused by an illness or medical condition, talk with your GP or another health professional.