My child Sleep-walks: What shall I do?!
Sleepwalking in children is normal and can be seen in up to 40% of children at some point of their life, and usually disappears by puberty. It usually occurs during a period of deep sleep and peaks during the early part of the night, more commonly in the first few hours after falling asleep.
The exact cause of sleepwalking is unknown, but it seems to be genetically linked and runs in families. It cannot be entirely prevented but it is important to keep the child safe and injury free during the episode, which may occurs once or multiple times per night. During the episode, the child may just sit up in bed looking around and looking confused, while some children may get out of bed and walk about in the house. The eyes are usually open during sleepwalking, although the person will look straight through people and not recognize them. Most sleepwalking episodes last less than 10 minutes, but they can be longer. At the end of each episode, the person may wake up, or return to bed and go to sleep.
If your child sleepwalks, it is paramount to provide them with a safe environment. Consider a bed alarm, so that as soon as the child is off the bed, the parents are aware of this and can support the child. Do not attempt to wake the child, as they can get upset and scared if woken up in the middle of the episode. Gently reassure them and take them back to their bed. Ensure that all hallways, corridors are clutter free so that the child does not fall during the episode. It is sensible to have stair gates, lock all exit doors and remove the keys from the doors. The child’s room and the corridors must have a dim light, just in case they wake up during the episode, and remain aware of their surroundings.
It is also important to find out if there are any triggers for sleepwalking. Many young children have nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting) which is a common trigger for sleepwalking episode. Try to maintain a diary of the events to ascertain if there are specific times the child sleepwalks to pin point any triggers. It is also important to have a regular routine of sleep wake cycle as lack of sleep is a common factor in children who sleep walks. Restrict the child’s screen time and ensure no screen time 1-2 hours prior to the child goes to his/her bed. Lastly, if your child sleepwalks at the same time most nights, try gently waking them for a short time 15 to 20 minutes before they would normally sleepwalk – this may stop them sleepwalking by altering their normal sleep cycle.
If you have any further queries with regards to sleepwalking in children, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org