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Sleepwalking in Children: All You Need to Know!

Sleepwalking in Children: All You Need to Know!

Sleepwalking is more common among adults, but is not strictly restricted to them. Some children may also suffer from this medical condition. Children with sleepwalking, as in the case of adults too, usually get up in the middle of the night without conscious control of their actions. This is commonly seen in children between four and eight years of age. Most children usually grow out of it. In some cases, sleepwalking in children may be dangerous. As they may sustain or cause injuries to others unintentionally since they are unable to control themselves.

What Causes Sleepwalking in Children?

Major causes of sleepwalking in children include:

  • Sleep deprivation or fatigue
  • Irregular sleeping habits
  • Anxiety
  • Unfamiliar sleeping surroundings
  • Fever and certain other illnesses
  • Certain medications such as sedatives, stimulants, and antihistamines
  • Genetic factors

Sleepwalking in children can be a warning symptom for underlying health conditions such as:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Dramatic nightmares in deep sleep
  • Head injuries
  • Migraines
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)

Symptoms of Sleepwalking

Walking around unconsciously could be known as the most common sign of sleepwalking in children. However, there are other symptoms associated with the condition:

  • Repeating the same movement while being seated on the bed
  • Mumbling or talking while sleeping
  • Lack of responsiveness to the world
  • Doing simple tasks around the house, such as cleaning the table, getting dressed
  • Wandering around stairs and doorways
  • Picking up sharp objects while sleepwalking
  • Clumsy movements
  • Urinating in unacceptable places

As apparent from the above symptoms, some are harmless like clumsy movements and mumbling in sleep, while others are inappropriate like urinating anywhere else other than in the washroom. However, these will not adversely affect your child or anyone else around him/her. What may cause potential harm to your child is walking around staircases and picking up sharp objects that are accessible to them.

You may eliminate the risk of them picking up sharp objects by making them inaccessible. It may be difficult to restrict their movements around stairways and sharp bends at home. Hence, it is important for you to get your child treated rather than ignoring sleepwalking as a harmless medical condition.

How is Sleepwalking in Children Diagnosed?

Usually, doctors may diagnose sleepwalking in children based on how the guardian accompanying the child describes the symptoms. Most of the time, treatment is not required. However, other diagnostic examinations should be conducted to rule out other medical conditions.

If the child’s sleepwalking stems from conditions like sleep apnea or night terrors, a sleep study may be advised by your doctor. The child will spend a night in a sleep lab. Different electrodes are attached to different parts of the body to measure their heart rate, brain waves, breathing rate, muscle tension, eye and leg movements, and oxygen level in the blood. A camera may be installed to record the actions and movements of the sleeping child.

If sleepwalking causes troubles, your doctor may perform a technique called scheduled awakening. This means keeping an eye on the child for a few nights to find out the exact hours at which they sleepwalk. Then, the doctor may wake the child up about 15 minutes before the expected time of their waking up. This will reset the child’s sleep cycle and control sleepwalking.

If the sleepwalking puts the child in dangerous situations or causes excessive fatigue, medications such as benzodiazepines or antidepressants may be prescribed.

Optimal Treatments Options

Don’t wake the child suddenly while they are sleepwalking, since this could make things worse.

Below are some of the measures that parents need to implement at home to keep their children safe:

  • Make sure you lock all the doors and windows at night
  • Remove items with a sharp edge from their sight
  • Don’t let children sleep on a bunk bed
  • Install alarms on doors and windows or install locks out of your child’s reach
  • Install safety gates in front of stairs and doorways
  • Turn down the temperature of the water heater
  • Keep keys out of reach

Learn more about Other Child Health Issues here.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Jun 29, 2021
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel