Help! My child is sleepwalking! What should I do?
Frequently, in movies and television shows, sleepwalking is portrayed as a humorous event. The characters often laugh at the things the sleepwalker says or does in their sleep. But, in reality, sleepwalking isn’t a laughing matter. It is a serious concern that can lead to problems as well as danger for the person who is sleepwalking. When a loved one has a history of sleepwalking, you’ll want to do what you can to support them and minimize harm. When it is your young child who is sleepwalking, you’ll likely be especially concerned about what you can do to help them!
What Can Cause a Child to Sleepwalk?
There seem to be various factors that may be to blame for when a child is sleepwalking. Some of the possible causes of sleepwalking in children include:
Underdeveloped Nervous System
Since children don’t have a fully developed nervous system, this could possibly contribute to their sleepwalking.
Illness or Fevers
When your child is sick, it can sometimes lead to a sleepwalking incident.
Some children who have a family history of sleepwalking, may also begin to sleepwalk.
Physiological or Emotional Problems
Stress and big emotions can sometimes be reasons behind a child who is sleepwalking.
Fluctuating Sleep Schedules
Sometimes an inconsistent sleeping routine can lead to sleepwalking in children. If you fix your child’s sleep schedule, the sleepwalking may stop.
If your child is especially fatigued from not getting enough sleep, this is sometimes the culprit behind sleep walking.
Some medications can also contribute to sleep walking.
How Can I Tell If My Child is Sleepwalking?
Sometimes, it may not be immediately clear that your child is sleepwalking. You are probably wondering what signs you should look for to determine if your child is indeed sleepwalking. If your child is sleepwalking, you might notice them walking around the house, or maybe even just their room when they should be sleeping. It is possible that your child will be able to perform an everyday task, such as moving items around. Sleepwalking children are also often clumsy.
When your child is sleepwalking, you’ll normally notice that their eyes are open. However, they will not look like they normally do when they are awake. When your child is sleepwalking, their eyes will look glazed over as if they are zoning on something.
When your child is sleepwalking, they may try to have a conversation with you, but it typically won’t make any sense. It will sound like they are babbling. If your child is sleepwalking, they probably won’t recognize or respond to you.
Another unpleasant sign of sleepwalking is urinating in random places. Sometimes children who are sleepwalking will urinate in a corner or a closet.
Hopefully this information will help you to be able to determine if your child is sleepwalking so you can decide on the next steps to help them!
What Should I Do if My Child is Sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking in itself is not dangerous. However, since your child will be moving around when they are asleep and will not be coherent, there are many potential ways a child who is sleepwalking could become injured. You’ll want to do several things to protect your child from these potential hazards if you know your child is prone to sleepwalking. Below you’ll find some suggestions for what to do if your child sleepwalks.
Don’t Wake Them Up
While it isn’t dangerous to the sleepwalker to be woken up, they will typically be disoriented if woken up when sleepwalking. Waking your child up when they are sleepwalking can sometimes scare them as well. Rather, if your child is sleepwalking, remain calm and quietly help lead them back to their bed.
Establish a Routine and Regular Sleep Schedule
Since one of the possible causes for sleepwalking is irregular sleep schedules and fatigue, establish a good routine to ensure your child is getting enough sleep each night. Check with a pediatrician about the recommended amount of sleep your child should be getting based on their age. Be careful to monitor your child’s sleep and ensure they aren’t sleeping too much. Then, set a bedtime and stick with it. If getting your child to go to bed is challenging, establish bedtime routines and give them reminders that bedtime is coming up in X number of minutes. You can also work out some sort of a reward or sticker system with your child for each evening they complete their routine and get into bed on time.
Check your Child’s Room for Potentially Hazardous Items
Since your sleep walking child will be alone in their room, you’ll want to ensure that nothing is present that could harm them. Make sure there are no sharp objects in their room. Make sure their furniture is anchored and secured to the wall. If there are any fragile items on their dressers or shelves that could be broken and hazardous, remove them from their room. You want to do what you can to create as safe of a space as possible if your child starts sleeping again.
Avoid Using Bunkbeds
If you have a sleepwalking child, don’t let them sleep on the top bunk of a bunk bed. This can create a potential falling hazard if your child wakes up in the middle of the night and doesn’t realize they are up high or isn’t awake enough to safely climb down the ladder. Have your child sleep in a bed that is close to the floor instead.
Keep Floors Clutter-Free
Since your child will be wandering around their room, or potentially other rooms in your house, you’ll want to make sure there is nothing they can trip on. Each evening before going to bed, be sure to pick up any tripping hazards and put them away.
Use Safety Gates
You can also consider using a safety gate for protection when your child is sleepwalking. You can use the gate at your child’s door to prevent them from leaving their room. You could also put a safety gate at the top of your staircase to make sure your child doesn’t try to climb down the stairs when they aren’t alert enough to do so safely.
Ensure Windows and Doors are Locked and Secured
Even if you are going to use a safety gate to block your child’s access to certain areas of the house, take extra precautions and make sure that all the windows and exterior doors are locked. Your child may be able to climb over the gate in their sleep, and you don’t want them to somehow get outside where there are numerous potential hazards! You can also look for safety latches for your exterior doors that go on the top of the door. This way, if your child knows how to unlock the door, they still won’t be able to gain access to outside since there will be an additional lock above their reach.
Don’t Stress your Child Out about His or Her Sleepwalking
Even if you are feeling concerned or worried about your child’s sleepwalking, try not to make it seem like too big of a deal for them. If you talk about it a lot or share your concerns about the possible ways they could be harmed through sleepwalking, it is going to lead to your child feeling stressed. They may not want to go to bed at night in fear of what could happen if they sleepwalk. This will only lead them to being more tired and increase the chances of them sleepwalking.
Consider Therapy for your Child
If you are concerned about your child’s sleepwalking or feel that it may be caused by underlying emotional or physiological problems, you can make an appointment for your child to see a therapist. A therapist can work with your child on improving their sleep habits. They can also work to combat any depression or anxiety that may be contributing to their sleepwalking.
Talk to your Child’s Pediatrician
In some extreme case of sleepwalking, your child may be prescribed a medication. Clonazepam is sometimes prescribed when a child is sleepwalking. It is a medication that suppresses the nervous system. It will decrease the likelihood that your child will get up in their sleep to sleepwalk.
It can be concerning when your child is sleepwalking. As a parent, you want to do everything you can to keep your child safe. Hopefully, implementing the suggestions we’ve offered will help put your mind at ease and help you and your child to sleep better each night!