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How to Deal With a Sleepwalker

By Gary Wickman | Sleep Disorders | Rating:

Sleepwalking can be caused by many things and occurs in children most often. There are many factors which may contribute to a more pronounce instance of sleepwalking in people who are prone to the disorder. Things like becoming overtired or stressed can lead to a heightened occurrence of sleepwalking. In addition, there are certain medications which may promote an episode of sleepwalking in certain individuals. There is also a lot of evidence to suggest that sleepwalking may be genetic in some cases. No matter what the cause, sleepwalking can be unsettling. This is especially true for parents with young children who sleep walk. The problem with sleep walking is the fact that it can put the person who is doing the sleepwalking in severe danger.

Never Wake a Person Who Is Sleepwalking – Fact or Myth?

Most everyone has heard that you should never wake a person who is sleepwalking. There are even some who say doing so could cause the sleepwalker to have a heart attack and die on the spot. The truth is, this is a ridiculous notion and is not backed by any scientific data. In fact, most doctors will tell you that it is much safer to wake a sleepwalker up than to let them wander around aimlessly, possibly harming themselves in the process. The only potential harm that can come to sleepwalkers is that which they inflict upon themselves by tripping and falling, or even in severe cases, wandering out into the street. This has kept many parents up at night worrying, especially in severe cases in which the child sleepwalks as often as three times a week. The good news is, there are things parents can do to help make sure their child will be safe, should a sleepwalking episode ensue.

Taking Safety Precautions in Your Home

Because sleepwalking can cause a series of undesirable accidents, it is best to go over your home with a fine tooth comb and eliminate anything you possible can, that could pose a threat to the sleepwalker. One thing many parents do is place locks on the doors which are too high for the child to reach. This will ensure that the child does not leave the house while sleepwalking. Another strategy for parents who have children who walk in their sleep frequently is to set up some sort of motion detector in the child’s room. This will alert the parents if the child should awaken during the night and set out walking about. It is also a wise decision to pick up anything which could be a hazard in terms of tripping, such as shoes, clothing or toys. Keeping a tidy floor will help reduce the possibility that the sleepwalker will fall and get hurt.

How Long Will a Child Suffer From Sleepwalking?

Most scientific data suggests that the majority of sleepwalking occurs in children between the ages of 2 and 10. In most cases, by the time the child reaches about 15 year of age, the sleepwalking should have subsided, if not completely stopped. Of course there are some cases in which sleepwalking continues into adulthood but this is much less common. In addition, studies suggest that adults who have never been known to sleepwalk but suddenly develop the disorder, may have an underlying medical issue which should be looked into.

Is There Anything Which Can Be Done to Stop Sleepwalking?

While there is no cure or remedy that is 100% effective is stopping someone from sleepwalking, half of the battle is getting to the root of the problem. There are many issues which could be contributing to your child’s sleepwalking. If you have a child who is sleepwalking more than you are comfortable with, have him/her looked at by your pediatrician to rule out any possible underlying medical or neurological conditions. If the child checks out and there is nothing evident then you are probably just dealing with a normal sleepwalker. About 20% of all children sleepwalk so you are not alone. There are some doctors who suggest using sedatives but most parents are uncomfortable medicating their children, and with good reason. Setting the mood to a "power down" about an hour prior to your child’s bedtime in order to help psychologically prepare him/her for bed is one strategy which seems to be somewhat effective. Overall, the only thing you can do is to take the safety precautions listed above and support your child through each episode.

At What Time of the Night Is Sleepwalking Most Prevalent?

Here is where the good news comes in. In most cases, children who sleepwalk will do so during the first 2 to 3 hours after they have fallen asleep. If your child has a bedtime of 9 pm, you can almost always expect the sleepwalking to be done within a few hours of the time he/she drifted off to sleep. If you are like most parents, you probably put your child to bed long before you actually turn in for the night. This may mean that you will still be awake when your child comes wandering out of his/her bedroom with that dazed look in his/her eyes. This will allow you to deal with the situation by gently leading your little one back to bed. This is not to say that sleepwalking cannot occur at any other time of the night, it is just much more typical during the stages of sleep which occur during the first few hours.

If you have a sleepwalker try to keep in mind that it will probably go away on its own, naturally. If you have a child who has been exhibiting bizarre and potentially dangerous behaviors while sleepwalking, talk to your doctor about alternative treatments which may help your child stay in bed through the night. While medication is not always the best solution, it is better to weight the odds. If your child stands to be injured as a result of his/her sleepwalking, you may be better off taking measures to stop it.





Gary Wickman

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  • Comment #1 (Posted by mj austin)
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    I'm an adult sleepwalker, this article is about children.
     


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