Do you have a sleepwalking child? It can be upsetting to watch your child sleepwalk, but it is quite common among children. Sleepwalking in children refers to a state in which your child gets out of the bed and starts walking around while still being asleep. It happens while your child is in deep slumber so that he won’t respond normally to anything. Statistics reveal that 7-15% of kids do sleepwalk.
What is Sleepwalking
Sleepwalking is a series of complex behaviors, which may range from walking to sitting in bed, leaving the house, or driving long distances. It can be unnerving to see your child sleepwalk, but the good thing is that most sleepwalkers outgrow the habit by their teen years. The problem is more commonly seen in children aged 4-12 years.
The mind of a sleepwalking child is asleep, even though his eyes are open and body awake and moving.
Your sleepwalking child might:
- get up from a deep slumber
- get out of bed
- start walking around the house
- come downstairs
- perform simple tasks
- get dressed, set the dinner table
- keep eyes wide open
- seem dazed
- sleep talk
- wander around the house
- not respond to your intervention
- open a closet door and pee inside
- open cupboards
- start to eat
A young child may start to crawl around the cot. Sleepwalking might happen once or twice a month, and when it happens, your child does not remember anything about it the next day.
What To Do If You See Your Child Sleepwalking
If you notice your child sleepwalk, you may take any of the following steps.
- Try to gently awake him from slumber during an episode.
- Guide him back to bed gently. More often than not, sleepwalking children go back to sleep unless they are waken.
- Avoid startling the child unless he is in danger, as there is a risk of he is lashing out at you.
- Wake up the children after he has fully recovered from the episode and put them back to sleep.
- Don’t shout at the sleepwalking child.
If you are worried about your child’s sleepwalking episodes, try to find if they are dealing with any sleeping disorder. Is there some form of anxiety or depression that is keeping your child from sleeping well? You may want to check it with your child’s doctor to see if there is any medical condition that triggers sleepwalking in your child. He might be in need of medication or behavioral therapy.
Alternatively, you should try to ensure that your nighttime wanderer gets enough sleep. A regular bedtime and sleep cycle might reduce the episodes of sleepwalking. He should avoid caffeine at bedtime. A full bladder may contribute to sleepwalking, so do not let your young sleepwalker drink loads of water after dusk and before going to bed. Make sure his bedroom is quiet and comfortable enough to induce a good night’s sleep. Help your child relax before bedtime so that he gets a good quality sleep.
Causes of Sleepwalking in Children
It runs in some families. Sleep deprivation is one of the most common triggers of sleepwalking in children. The condition is more likely to affect children with a family history of such behavior.
Other triggers may include:
- febrile illness
- use of certain sedative agents or medications for sleep, antihistamines, seizures, anti-arrhythmic heart drugs, or stimulants
- poor sleep habits
- mental health disorders, such as stress, anxiety, depression
- medical conditions that cause poor sleep
- neurological disorders, such as seizures
- hormonal changes during adolescence
- physiological or psychological stress
Although sleepwalking is not usually a serious medical condition, it can have serious consequences, because a sleepwalking child is not awake in the real sense. So walking in slumber could result in injuries to the sleepwalker, as he could bang on a wall or any other object and hurt himself. Or they could undertake dangerous activities, such as lighting a matchstick or fire.
When you sleep, your brain passes through different sleep stages, which make up your sleep cycle. Ideally, a sleep cycle lasts about 90-100 minutes. You experience four or five sleep cycles.
Safety Tips for Parents of Sleepwalking Children
If you have a child who often sleepwalks, the most important thing is to ensure that your child is safe when he is sleepwalking. The following steps may help.
- Keep floors clean and clear so that there is no risk of tripping over.
- Put barriers across stairs.
- Lock doors and windows.
- Put dangerous objects away.
- Keep heaters, electric cords out of your child’s reach.
- Replace bunk beds, as there is a high risk of a sleepwalker falling off.
- Tie a bell to your child’s door, which will signal that your young sleepwalker has opened the door in the night.
Sometimes, a sleepwalking child might experience the following conditions.
- Sleep apnea
- Night terrors
The next time you see your child sleepwalking, don’t panic. Just steer him back to the comfort of his bed, so that he wakes up fresh in the morning. Alternatively, do not forget to take steps to prevent accidents involving your young sleepwalker. Make your house completely safe for your nighttime wanderer, so that there is no risk of injury even if he sleepwalks.
Ravneet also blogs at www.wellnessguide.com