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Sleepwalking is a disorder in which a child partly, but not completely, awakens during the night. The child may walk or do other things without any memory of doing so.
More children than adults sleepwalk, most often between the ages of 3 and 7. According to the National Sleep Foundation's 2004 Sleep in America Poll, 1 percent of pre-school children and 2 percent of school-aged children walk in their sleep at least a few nights per week. Sleepwalking occurs more often in children with obstructive sleep apnea. There is also a higher instance of sleepwalking among children who wet the bed. Sleep terrors are a related disorder and both tend to run in families.
The child may sit up in bed and repeat certain movements, such as rubbing his or her eyes or fumbling with clothes. The child may get out of bed and walk around the room, look dazed, have clumsy movements. When talking to the child, he or she usually will not answer.
It is important to keep children safe during sleepwalking. Some tips for keeping sleepwalking children safe:
- Experts say to gently guide the child back to bed.
- Don't yell or make a loud noise.
- Remove dangerous objects from areas where the child might reach.
- Keep doors and windows closed and locked. This is especially important if you live in an apartment. If necessary, the child may have to sleep on the ground floor of a home.
- Don't shake the child.
- Use toddler gates on staircases.
- Don't use bunk beds.
- Never make your child feel ashamed about sleepwalking.
Most children who sleepwalk don't have emotional problems. So experts say not to worry too much if it happens. Most children outgrow sleepwalking. If your child sleepwalks for a long time, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may want to look at the problem more closely. Some medicines can be used to treat sleepwalking.