Sleepwalking is fairly common for children. Kids who sleepwalk usually start between the ages of 2 and 7, and stop on their own before the teen years.
Getting out of bed and walking around the room or house a few times each month is quite common. It usually happens in the early part of the night. They may walk around for up to 20 minutes, then either return to bed or lie down somewhere else.
Their eyes are usually open, but are staring and not focused. They may do things like open doors, change clothing, eat, drink or use the toilet. Sometimes the child will talk, but will not usually wake up if you talk to them.
Many times the child will take calm guidance from you about returning to bed. In the morning, they rarely remember anything about sleepwalking.
What causes sleepwalking?
Some sleepwalkers are more anxious and shy than other children their age.
However, most children who sleepwalk do not have emotional or behavioural problems. Sleepwalking tends to run in families, but the cause is not known.
In children who do sleepwalk, being very tired or stressed or going to bed late can make it more likely to happen that night.
Most children need no special treatment for sleepwalking. But you can try to make it happen less often by:
- trying not to let your child get too tired in the day
- get your child into a regular sleep pattern
To safely manage your child’s sleepwalking:
- Don’t try to wake them up. Stay calm and gently redirect your child back to bed when they have finished what they are doing.
- Avoid talking about the sleepwalking the next morning as they will not remember it and you may stress them.
- Make the environment safe. Make sure your child can’t walk down stairs or trip and fall when sleepwalking. Lock doors and windows, don’t leave things lying around on the floor, and put a gate across stairs. Don’t let your child sleep in the top bed of a bunk bed.
When to see a doctor
Sleepwalking in children is not usually caused by an illness or medical condition, but if the sleepwalking makes your child tired next day, or if it’s happening in the early hours of the morning, talk to your child’s doctor about it.
If a child is not sleeping well because of stress or anxiety, psychological treatments may be used. Medication is not usually used in sleep problems, but can help in some extreme situations. This should be discussed with your doctor.
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Last reviewed: July 2019