Help! My kid is sleepwalking!

Footsteps in the passage. It’s the middle of the night. If you’re security-conscious, your first thought is probably “burglars!” but it turns out to be something only a little less scary: Your child has suddenly started sleepwalking.

Don’t panic, though: Sleepwalking is not uncommon and is rarely harmful to your child. According to experts, it is just one of several sleep disorders which may affect people of any age, including insomnia, sleep-talking, sleep-eating, hallucinations and acting out dreams.

What to look out for:
  • Sleepwalking may be triggered by a child acting out on a need to go to the toilet. This may be prevented by making sure he empties his bladder before bedtime.
  • Sleep apnoea (where the airways and breathing are obstructed) stimulates the brain, and may produce all sorts of symptoms, including crying out or kicking (acting out dreams) and sleepwalking. If your child is sleepwalking and is also struggling to catch his breath, he may need to go to the doctor for an assessment of his breathing and circulation. Snoring may indicate that sleep apnoea is present.
  • According to a Health24 expert:  “Make sure she is safe and cannot walk into anything dangerous such as the glass vase that may cause her an injury. Be sure that she cannot fall down stairs or walk out of a door or window. When she sleepwalks simply lead her back to her bed and do not wake her.” In addition, make sure the sleep area is free from wires or leads which could trip the sleepwalking child, and that hazardous substances such as detergents are out of reach.
  • Studies have also shown that expectant mothers who smoke have children with higher levels of sleep disorders, including sleepwalking.
  • Stressful periods such as starting at a new school, moving house or parents who are having relationship issues may also introduce sleep problems, which could manifest as sleepwalking. According to expert Anne Cawood, ensuring that the child is comforted and as calm as possible before bed may help.
A sleepwalking child is different to a child who just wants a cuddle (ever seen a child try his luck with fake sleepwalking?) and nothing to be too concerned about, unless the child is experiencing breathing (or other health) problems or is placing himself in danger. Should that be the case, ask your doctor for advice.

And if you are also sleepwalking, do make sure to leave a snack out for yourself in the kitchen!

Has your child ever done strange things while he is asleep?
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