What Is Sleepwalking?

Have your parents ever seen you get up and walk around in your sleep? If so, you're one of many kids who sleepwalk. 

Sleepwalking usually happens in the first few hours of sleep during deep sleep. Not all sleepwalkers actually walk. Some sit up or stand in bed or act like they're awake (but dazed) when, in fact, they're asleep! But most do get up and move around for a few seconds or for as long as half an hour.

Sleepwalkers' eyes are open, but they don't see the same way they do when they're awake. They'll often think they're in different rooms of the house or different places altogether. Sleepwalkers tend to go back to bed on their own and they won't remember what happened in the morning.

Sleepwalking may run in families and sometimes happens when a person is sick, has a fever, is not getting enough sleep, or is stressed.

Is Sleepwalking a Serious Problem?

If sleepwalking happens a lot, every night or so, it's a good idea for your mom or dad to take you to see your doctor. But sleepwalking once in a while usually isn't something to worry about. Still, it may look funny or even scary for the people who see a sleepwalker in action.

It's important, of course, to keep a sleepwalker safe. Precautions should be taken so the person is less likely to fall down, run into something, or walk out the front door while sleepwalking.

What Will the Doctor Do?

There's no cure for sleepwalking, but the doctor can talk to you about what's happening and try to find ways to help you sleep more soundly. Most kids grow out of sleepwalking.

For kids who sleepwalk often, doctors may recommend a treatment called scheduled awakening. This means your parent will gently wake you up a little before your usual sleepwalking time, which can help stop sleepwalking. In rare cases, a doctor may prescribe medicine to help someone sleep.

Here are some tips to help prevent sleepwalking:

  • Relax at bedtime by listening to soft music or relaxation tapes.
  • Have a regular sleep schedule and stick to it.
  • Keep noise and lights low while you're trying to sleep.
  • Avoid drinking a lot in the evening and be sure to go to the bathroom before going to bed. (A full bladder can contribute to sleepwalking.)

How to Take Care of a Sleepwalker

One thing you can do to help is to clear rooms and hallways of furniture or obstacles a sleepwalker might encounter during the night. If there are stairs or dangerous areas, a grown-up should close doors and windows or install safety gates.

You also might have heard that sleepwalkers can get confused and scared if you startle them into being awake. That's true. So what do you do if you see someone sleepwalking? You should call for a grown-up who can gently steer the person back to bed. And after the sleepwalker is tucked back in bed, it's time for you to get some shut-eye too!

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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