What is sleepwalking?


Caring for a child who sleepwalks

These tips can help when you have a child who sleepwalks.

  • Don't try to wake up your child while sleepwalking.

    Your child may become confused and upset and have more trouble getting back to sleep.

  • Gently and quietly lead your child back to bed.
  • Make sure all doors and windows are locked so your child can't leave the house. Put a gate at the top of stairs.
  • Put a ringing alarm on your child's door that will alert you when they leave the bedroom.
  • Try waking your child 15 to 30 minutes before sleepwalking usually occurs.

    Because sleepwalking usually happens at the same time at night, it may help to wake your child before the problem usually occurs. Then let your child fall back asleep. This may break the cycle of the sleep problem.

Talk with your child's doctor if these strategies do not help.

What is sleepwalking in children?

Sleepwalking means that your child gets out of bed and walks or does other things without being fully awake. It is much more common in children than adults. Sleepwalking usually goes away on its own as a child gets older.

When children sleepwalk, they may end up somewhere other than their bed. They may be confused when they wake up. Children often don't remember sleepwalking or the things they did while out of bed. A child often can do very simple tasks while sleepwalking, such as not tripping over things. But your child can't do complicated things like eating a snack.

A child who sleepwalks may be at risk for getting hurt. Watch for anything dangerous your child may try to do while sleepwalking, such as going outside or opening a window. You can safeguard your home to help protect your child.

Lack of sleep, or interrupted sleep, may lead to sleepwalking or make it worse in some children. Be sure that your child gets plenty of good sleep. For many children, getting regular exercise, eating well, and having a good bedtime routine relieves sleep problems. Medicines or therapy may be used to treat sleepwalking when it is severe, frequent, or dangerous. These treatments may also be used if sleepwalking keeps your child or your family from getting good sleep.

How can you manage your child's sleepwalking?

  • To help protect your child from getting hurt while sleepwalking:
    • Put childproof locks on doors that lead outside the house.
    • Make sure any windows that could be opened by your child are securely locked.
    • Use a bed alarm. It can alert you when your child gets out of bed.
  • Gently guide a sleepwalking child back to bed. Do not wake your child in a way that could be scary or startling. For example, don't shout at, grab, or shake your child.

To help your child get enough sleep

  • Set up a bedtime routine to help your child get ready for bed and sleep. For example, read together, cuddle, and listen to soft music for 15 to 30 minutes before you turn out the lights. Do things in the same order each night so your child knows what to expect.
    • Have your child go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.
    • Keep your child's bedroom quiet, dark or dimly lit, and cool.
    • Limit activities that stimulate your child, such as playing and watching TV, in the hours before bedtime.
    • Limit eating and drinking near bedtime.
  • If your child wakes up and calls for you in the middle of the night, make your response the same each time. Offer quick comfort. But then leave the room as long as your child is safe in bed.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.