Sleepwalking

Overview

What is sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking is a disorder in which a person partly, but not completely, awakens during the night. The person may walk or do other things without any memory of doing so.

Should I worry if a family member sleepwalks?

Not really. Sleepwalking is fairly common in children, but can occur at any age. You do need to help make sure that your family member doesn’t injure himself or herself while sleepwalking.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of sleepwalking?

A person who is sleepwalking may sit up in bed and repeat certain movements, such as rubbing his or her eyes or fumbling with clothes. The person may get out of bed and walk around. He or she may even perform routine actions, such as getting dressed, cooking, or driving a car. The person may look dazed, and his or her movements and speech may be clumsy. When you talk to the person, he or she usually will not answer you.

Depending on the person, sleepwalking may happen often (for example, every night or multiple times a night) or only occasionally.

Most people who sleepwalk begin sleepwalking as children, then outgrow it by the time they are teenagers.

Treatment

Does my family member need treatment for sleepwalking?

Probably not. But talk to a doctor if your family member does dangerous things while sleepwalking, or if sleepwalking causes other problems (such as sleepiness during the day). Also, most children outgrow sleepwalking. But if your child sleepwalks for a long time, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may want to look at the problem more closely.

Some medicines can be used to treat sleepwalking. Your doctor may recommend you keep a "sleep diary" for your family member to record the times when your family member sleepwalks.

What should I do when a family member sleepwalks?

The most important thing you can do is prevent injury by removing dangerous objects from areas that your family member might reach. You should keep doors and windows closed and locked so that the sleepwalker can’t wander outside. If necessary, your family member may have to sleep on the ground floor for better safety.

When you find your family member sleepwalking, you should gently guide him or her back to bed. Don’t yell, make a loud noise, or shake your family member to wake him or her up.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • Is there something wrong with my child?

  • Should I wake my child while he/she is sleepwalking?

  • Could stress be the cause of my child’s sleepwalking?

  • Should I talk to my child about sleepwalking?

  • Should I ask my child if anything is wrong?

  • Should I sleep in the room with my child so I know when he/she is sleepwalking?

  • What medicines can help my child?