Sleepwalking in Children
A sleepwalking child can be scary for parents. Sleepwalking children may behave very differently than they would in their waking state.
Though sleepwalking kids usually have their eyes open as they walk or run through the house, they’re actually in a deep state of sleep – and their actions will clue you in to their unusual state of mind. They may even look different in indescribable little ways, or move differently from their waking selves. Don’t be alarmed – your child is only dreaming.
How Do I Protect a Child Who Sleepwalks?
Kids who sleepwalk often leave their bedrooms without being consciously aware of their actions. They can walk down the stairs, into other rooms – even out the door! Children run a higher risk of hurting themselves while asleep, since they may be moving clumsily or without understanding what’s going on around them.
Here are some steps you can take to protect a child who sleepwalks:
• Lock exterior doors. In case a child inadvertently goes wandering through the house, double-check your doors at night to be sure they’re locked – preferably with a deadbolt that the child doesn’t know how to operate.
• Put away the toys. Clean up the child’s bedroom before bed, so that if they sleepwalk they won’t trip over toys or other items that have been left on the floor.
• Put up gates at the tops of staircases. If your house is built on two or more stories, put up gates to keep kids from walking down stairs in their sleep. A fall down the stairs will hurt a sleeping child just as much as a wakeful one.
• Consider putting up alarms. You don’t have to put in a whole-house alarm system. Buy a couple window alarms at your local home improvement store and install them on your child’s bedroom door, windows, and on any gates at the tops or bottoms of staircases. Set the alarms before bed, and you’ll know if your child sleepwalks and tries to leave the room, ventures down the stairs, or tries to leave the house.
• Visit a specialist. Most children outgrow sleepwalking by their early teens. If the problem persists, or is severe enough to cause problems, take your child to a sleep specialist for a diagnosis.
Sleepwalking can be scary. But if you can protect your child from physical danger, it’s usually a harmless and temporary condition.
Does your child sleepwalk? Tell us your story!