Cait,11, was trying to fall asleep when her 8-year-old brother, Doug, came into her room. He looked around a bit, but seemed really out of it.
Then Doug went back into the hallway and stood there staring up at the hall light.
Little brothers can be weird, but this was really strange. Cait didn't know what to do. Just then, Cait's father appeared and explained that Doug was sleepwalking.
Not all sleep is the same every night. We experience some deep, quiet sleep and some active sleep, which is when dreams happen. You might think sleepwalking would happen during active sleep, but a person isn't physically active during active sleep. Sleepwalking usually happens in the first few hours of sleep in the stage called slow-wave or deep sleep.
Not all sleepwalkers actually walk. Some simply sit up or stand in bed or act like they're awake (but dazed) when, in fact, they're asleep! Most, however, do get up and move around for a few seconds or for as long as half an hour.
Sleepwalkers' eyes are open, but they don't see the same way they do when they're awake and often think they're in different rooms of the house or different places altogether. Sleepwalkers tend to go back to bed on their own and they won't remember it in the morning.
Researchers estimate that up to 15% of kids sleepwalk regularly. Sleepwalking may run in families and sometimes occurs when a person is sick, has a fever, is not getting enough sleep, or is stressed.
If sleepwalking occurs frequently, every night or so, it's a good idea for your mom or dad to take you to see your doctor. But occasional sleepwalking generally isn't something to worry about, although it may look funny or even scary for the people who see a sleepwalker in action.
Although occasional sleepwalking isn't a big deal, it's important, of course, that the person is kept safe. Precautions should be taken so the person is less likely to fall down, run into something, or walk out the front door while sleepwalking.
There's no cure for sleepwalking, but the doctor can talk to you about what's happening and try to find ways to help you sleep more soundly. Most kids just grow out of sleepwalking.
For kids who sleepwalk often, doctors may recommend a treatment called scheduled awakening. This disrupts the sleep cycle enough to help stop sleepwalking. In rare cases, a doctor may prescribe medication to help someone sleep.
Here are some tips to help prevent sleepwalking:
One thing you can do to help is to clear rooms and hallways of furniture or obstacles a sleepwalker might encounter during the night. If there are stairs or dangerous areas, a grown-up should close doors and windows or install safety gates.
You also might have heard that sleepwalkers can get confused and scared if you startle them into being awake. That's true, so what do you do if you see someone sleepwalking? You should call for a grown-up who can gently steer the person back to bed. And once the sleepwalker is tucked back in bed, it's time for you to get some shut-eye, too!
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: April 2013
|National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) The NHLBI provides the public with educational resources relating to the treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases as well as sleep disorders.|
|American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) AASM strives to increase awareness of sleep disorders in public and professional communities.|
|Bedwetting Lots of kids wet the bed. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Nightmares Nightmares may be upsetting, but they are not "real" and can't harm you. And if you have one, you're in good company: almost everyone gets them once in awhile - adults, as well as kids. Read our article on nightmares to find out more.|
|Why Do I Yawn? If you yawn in class, you'll probably notice a few other people will start yawning, too. Why is that?|
|What Sleep Is and Why All Kids Need It When you get a good night's sleep, it's like giving your body a tiny vacation. Find out the scoop on sleep in this article for kids.|
|Why Do I Need to Sleep? Sleep is vital for giving your body a rest and allowing it to prepare for the next day. This article about sleep will teach you why your brain needs to spend time in bed getting zzzz's!|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.