Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Sleepwalking in children

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Sleepwalking is when your child moves around while they are asleep.
  • It is very common in young children, and usually goes away on its own.
  • Most children who sleepwalk do not have emotional or behavioural problems.
  • You should visit your doctor if sleepwalking is causing problems for your child or family.
  • Keep your child safe while they are sleepwalking by removing trip hazards, locking your doors to the outside, and blocking off stairs.

What is sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking is when your child moves around while they are asleep. It is quite common in children, especially between the ages of 4 and 8 years.

Children who sleepwalk will usually stop on their own as they grow up, but some people continue to sleepwalk as adults.

What are the symptoms of sleepwalking in children?

Sleepwalking usually happens in the late evening. If your child sleepwalks, they may get out of bed and walk around their room or your home.

After sleepwalking, your child may then either return to bed or lie down somewhere else.

If your child is sleepwalking, their eyes might be open. But, they may be staring and not focussing on things. Your child may do things like:

  • open doors
  • change clothing
  • eat
  • drink
  • urinate (do a wee) in strange places, like on the floor or in a drawer or cupboard

They may sometimes talk but will not usually wake up if you talk to them.

Often, your child will take calm guidance from you about going back to bed. In the morning, they will not remember anything about their sleepwalking episode.

What causes sleepwalking in children?

Sleepwalking usually happens when your child moves from deep sleep into a lighter sleep.

Sleepwalking tends to run in families, but the cause is not known. Most children who sleepwalk do not have emotional or behavioural problems.

Your child's risk of sleepwalking may be higher if they:

  • are stressed
  • go to bed late at night
  • are very tired or 'overtired'
  • are unwell or have a fever
  • have other sleep problems, such as sleep apnoea

Can sleepwalking cause problems?

If your child sleepwalks, they may injure themselves while sleepwalking by bumping into things.

Sleepwalking may also disturb your child's sleep and the sleep of other people in your home.

When should I take my child to see a doctor?

You should take your child to see a doctor if:

  • they are tired the day after sleepwalking
  • the sleepwalking affects the rest of your household
  • sleepwalking happens more than 2 times each night
  • they also snore loudly or gasp for breath while sleeping
  • they wet the bed or their pyjamas during an episode

Also see your doctor if your child's sleep or sleepwalking seems unusual to you or you are worried.

Can sleepwalking be treated?

Most children do not need special treatment for sleepwalking.

There are some self-care things you can do to help.

How can I manage my child's sleepwalking?

To safely manage your child's sleepwalking, don't try to wake them up. Let them finish what they are doing before gently guiding them back to bed.

If you want to talk about the sleepwalking the next morning, remember that your child may not remember it. Don't make a fuss and stay calm so that your child does not get stressed

Make sure your house is safe if you have a child who sleepwalks. You can:

  • put a gate across stairs to make sure your child can't walk downstairs or fall when sleepwalking
  • lock doors and windows so that your child does not leave the house while sleepwalking
  • make sure things are not left lying on the floor, so that your child doesn't trip while sleepwalking
  • make sure that your child does not sleep in the top bed of a bunk bed
  • set up a baby monitor, bell or buzzer on your child's door to alert you if they are sleepwalking

If your child goes away overnight, tell whoever is caring for them about the sleepwalking and what to expect. It may help to make sure your child is well rested before any overnight stays. This can help reduce the chance of sleepwalking.

Can sleepwalking be prevented?

Try the following to help reduce sleepwalking in your child:

  • get your child into a regular sleep pattern
  • establish a good bedtime routine
  • try not to let your child get overtired

Resources and Support

The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne has information on sleepwalking in children.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

Preschoolers: nightmares, night terrors & sleepwalking | Raising Children Network

Nightmares, night terrors and sleepwalking are fairly common among preschoolers. Get information and find out what to do about these issues.

Read more on website

Sleepwalking: children and teens | Raising Children Network

Sleepwalking is when your child gets out of bed and walks around as if awake. Sleepwalking doesn’t hurt your child. Most children grow out of sleepwalking.

Read more on website

Preschoolers sleep | Raising Children Network

Preschooler sleep problems? Here’s all you need on preschooler sleep with articles, videos and resources on sleep, nightmares, sleepwalking and more.

Read more on website

Your child and sleep disturbances | NT.GOV.AU

Common sleep disturbances in children: nightmares, sleepwalking, sleep talking and teeth grinding.

Read more on NT Health website

Sleep problems in children

Common sleep disorders in children include sleepwalking, insomnia, night terrors and teeth grinding. Learn about managing these disorders.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Sleep and your child

Common sleep disorders include nightmares and night terrors and sleepwalking. Bedwetting in children can also be a problem in early childhood.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Bad dreams and nightmares in children | Raising Children Network

Many children have nightmares. Comfort your child in the night. And if your child has a lot of nightmares, look into the daytime triggers of the nightmares.

Read more on website

Kids’ sleep: answers to 20 FAQs | Raising Children Network

Bedtime routines can help kids settle at night. Behaviour strategies can help with some sleep problems. See a GP if you’re worried about children’s sleep. Article available in: Arabic, Dari, Karen, Persian, Simplified Chinese, Vietnamese.

Read more on website

Nightmares and night terrors in children

Find out more about nightmares and night terrors in young children, what you can do to settle your child back to sleep and when to seek further help.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.