Cartoon Drawing by Matt Milley (17)

When my son gets over tired he tends to sleepwalk. He will leave his bed and come down the stairs and walk into the master bedroom. Sometimes we will have a conversation for a few minutes before I clue in that he is actually still asleep – he has absolutely no memory of this in the morning.

I used to be concerned that he would open the door and go for a midnight stroll outside, but so far this has not happened. Luckily we have a small dog that would bark if anyone opens a door to go outside.  After doing a bit of research on the subject I discovered that sleepwalking can be a serious disorder in some children and may even continue into adulthood.

Sleepwalking or somnambulism is more common in children than adults and is likely to occur if a child is not getting adequate rest. Somnambulism happens during very deep sleep and the sleepwalker will remain in deep slumber and be difficult to wake up and most likely will not remember the incident in the morning.

According to the National Sleep Foundation children between the ages of three to seven are more likely to have sleepwalking episodes, which sometimes continue into adulthood.  Sleepwalking also seems to be more prevalent in children who wet the bed.

Symptoms of sleepwalking
•    Walking in sleep (some children will even try to leave the house)
•    Talking and having conversations with him or herself or others
•    Sitting up in bed and looking around
•    Inappropriate behavior, children may urinate on the floor or in closets
•    Usually little or no memory of the episode the next day

Even though you may have heard that it is dangerous to wake a sleepwalker that is a misconception.  In my son’s case I would take him by the hand and lead him back to his bed stopping at the bathroom to make him urinate before tucking him safely back into his bed.

It is a good idea to try and make your child’s sleep environment safe to prevent injury during sleepwalking. Remove any objects around the bed that the child could injure himself on, install gates on stairs and lock the doors and windows.

Sleep deprivation will often be the cause of sleepwalking in children prone to somnambulism so making sure your child gets adequate rest may be enough to alleviate the problem. If sleepwalking persists it may be a good idea to consult a professional.

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