In the past few months, my child has been sleepwalking. It’s only happened a couple of times. Should I be concerned?
As a parent, the first time you see your child sleepwalking can make you very nervous and worried. Some people are surprised to find out that sleepwalking is fairly common in children. Most children who sleepwalk only do it occasionally and outgrow it by the time they are teenagers. Although is often a benign condition, it is important to ensure that you take all the necessary safety precautions in and outside your home.
Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder that occurs during deep sleep (non-REM or non-dream sleep). It doesn’t always involve walking. The common behaviours that most children can do include sitting up in bed and doing repeated movements (such as rubbing their eyes), talking, and sometimes walking around their room. Children tend to sleepwalk within the first hour or two of going to bed. Your child won’t respond to you when they’re sleepwalking, and the next day, they probably won’t remember any of it. If you wake up to find your child is sleepwalking, just gently bring them back to their bed.
Sleepwalking is not usually a sign that something is emotionally or psychologically wrong with a child, nor does sleepwalking cause a child any emotional harm.
If your child is sleepwalking, you should follow a few safety measures to reduce the chance of them getting into potentially dangerous situations (e.g. falling down, running into something, or walking out of the house, etc.):
- Before you go to bed, make sure all your windows and doors are locked. Consider using additional safety locks.
- Make sure there are no sharp or heavy objects near your child’s bed.
- If your child sleeps on the top of a bunk bed, you should move your child to the lower bunk or a different bed for the time being.
- You can also place a safety gate outside your child's room and at the top of the stairs.
If your child’s sleepwalking is infrequent and they aren’t experiencing any side effects such as daytime fatigue, there's usually no need to treat it. However, it is always a good idea to adopt healthy sleep habits for you and your child.
You should talk to your child’s doctor if their sleepwalking:
- becomes more frequent, especially if your child is sleepwalking several times a night,
- they are not outgrowing it,
- is associated with dangerous activities, or
- is starting to cause other problems.
You should also talk to your doctor if you think your child has other medical problems affecting their sleep, such as snoring or other symptoms of sleep apnea.