SLEEPWALKING IN CHILDREN
Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a form of sleep disorder which occurs when people walk around during their sleep. Some people sleepwalk on a regular basis while others will do it once or twice in a lifetime. Persistent sleepwalking although not medically harmful can cause problems, especially if the individual spends the night away from home and there is always the risk of accidents, such as trips and falls.
Sleepwalking can have an impact on people of all ages but adults are less likely to sleepwalk because children and teenagers spend more of their sleep time in deep sleep. People who have a close relative that sleepwalks are more prone to have the same problem as it can run in the family.
Most people think of sleepwalking as wandering around the house while asleep, but this is often not the case. Many people simply sit up suddenly when they are woken from a deep sleep, while others may walk around the home, climb up or down stairs and even carry out everyday activities such as getting dressed or preparing breakfast. Severe sleepwalking can involve activities such as driving a car and this is obviously very dangerous.
People who sleepwalk do so with their eyes open and they may look completely awake even though they are actually asleep and the eyes are glazed. If you come across somebody sleepwalking try to guide them gently back to bed, but do not try to wake them. If you wake a sleeping person they may feel confused and disorientated and are less likely to go straight back to sleep if you guide them back to bed. In most cases, people who sleepwalk do not remember sleepwalking in the morning.
Most episodes of sleepwalking are short and only last around 5-10 minutes. You may be able to communicate with a person who is sleepwalking, but they may take a long time to respond and appear confused and dazed so it is best to avoid talking to them.
What triggers sleepwalking?
It is not known exactly why some people sleepwalk and others do not. Yet some triggers have been identified that seem to increase the likelihood of a person sleepwalking, including:
- Disturbed sleep
- Fever and illness
- Drinking alcohol
- Taking certain types of medication, including antihistamines and sleeping tablets
If you live with a person who regularly sleepwalks, it may be necessary to take steps to protect them. This can be done by covering sharp corners, removing potentially dangerous objects such as sharp knives, clearing stairways and corridors, locking windows and front and back doors.
If sleepwalking is affecting daily life or causing problems arrange to see your doctor.