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Learning About Sleepwalking in Children

What is sleepwalking?

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 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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