Some children simply talk in their sleep, whereas others walk around and have even been known to leave the house. Some episodes of sleepwalking can be scary for both children and parents.
About Sleepwalking Children
Most children sleepwalk within the first few hours of falling asleep at night. This time is often referred to as deep sleep. Some children don't sleepwalk but simply wake up and talk or think they are awake. According to the textbook "Neuropsychiatry," which was written by Randolph B. Schiffer, Stephen M. Rao and Barry S. Fogel, an estimated 20 percent of children sleepwalk regularly.
If a child is sleepwalking every night, he should be checked out by his family doctor. Many parents are concerned about whether their child is sleepwalking because they don't want the child to get hurt. Make sure you are within earshot after your child goes to bed. Peek in at your child and make sure she is still safely in bed and not asleep. Children often seek out their parents, even in their sleep.
What Can You Do to Help?
Take precautions to prevent your child from falling or tripping by clearing the space around his bed. Don't make the sleepwalker navigate through a room full of hard and sharp objects. Make sure your child isn't drinking a lot of fluids just before bed. Dim the lights and quiet the household an hour or two before bed to ensure that your child understands that it is getting close to bedtime.
Sleepwalkers can be extremely difficult to awaken. Some doctors used to recommend that you not awaken a sleepwalker; however, according to the National Sleep Foundation, waking a person who is sleepwalking is OK. A person sleepwalking will often not recall anything that went on during her sleepwalking experience.
There is no cure for sleepwalking, but your doctor can help determine why your child is sleepwalking. Your doctor may recommend further treatment to either decrease sleepwalking episodes, such as scheduled awakenings, or other relaxation techniques for helping the individual achieve a deeper sleep at night.
Try getting the sleepwalker back into bed. If possible, gently turn him, so that he is pointing in the right direction of his bedroom. If he resists returning to bed, stay with him to help him remain safe. If you have to wake him up, do so with loud noises. Avoid shaking or touching them.
Suggestions for Your Child
If your child is sleepwalking, make her aware of it. The child may not believe you. Tell her to focus on her sleeping habits. It's important that the child create a good sleep routine that she can stick to each night. That means, going to bed and getting up at the same times each day.
The child should have a "power-down" hour before bed, which includes finding ways for the child to calm down and get ready for bed. Have the child read a story (or read to him) or take a bath.
The child's environment should remain safe. Lock doors, if possible. Avoid creating a fire hazard. Make sure the windows are locked. Install gates in hallways. Consider installing a door alarm. Talk to the child's doctor about other options.
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