Sleepwalking in children: causes, symptoms and treatment
Has your child been wandering around and doing strange things while fast asleep at night? Don’t worry too much, moms and dads, as sleepwalking in children is not unusual. In fact, it is quite common, and you likely have nothing to be worried about. Most children who sleepwalk do it sporadically and outgrow it by the time they are teenagers.
Let’s take a look at what causes their nighttime expeditions and what you can do to improve their sleep habits.
Signs and symptoms of sleepwalking in children
Sleepwalking usually occurs within the first few hours of falling asleep, and an episode can last from a few seconds to 30 minutes. It can usually be diagnosed by a doctor based on your description of your child’s behavior during sleep.
Signs of sleepwalking in children include:
- Sitting up in bed while still asleep.
- Getting out of bed without waking up.
- Walking around the house, sometimes clumsily.
- Repeating certain motions.
- Moving objects around.
- Doing odd tasks like cleaning, eating and moving furniture.
- Not responding when you speak to them.
- Mumbling and talking in their sleep.
- Urinating in strange places like the corner of the room, in their toy box and the kitchen.
- Not being aware of their actions while sleeping.
What causes sleepwalking in children?
There are a few possible causes of sleepwalking, which include:
- Being overtired and sleep-deprived
- A family history of sleepwalking
- Poor sleep hygiene like consuming caffeine and inconsistent bedtimes and wake-up times
- Sleeping in a new place or bed, like when on vacation, at a sleepover, or after moving to a new home
- Dealing with stress and anxiety
- Illness and fever
How to stop your child from sleepwalking
Sleep problems, such as sleepwalking, sleep talking, and insomnia in children are often related and can be addressed with various natural remedies. You can try different home remedies for sleepwalking, such as:
- Letting your child get more sleep. Perhaps you need to set an earlier bedtime.
- Setting a regular bedtime and wake-up time, which will help regulate your child’s circadian rhythm and help them get better quality sleep.
- Making your home safe for sleepwalking. Keep windows and doors closed and locked. Remove sharp objects, as well as anything they could potentially trip over.
- Removing electronics from the room to reduce blue light exposure. You can put blue light blocking filters on your tablets, computers and mobile phones.
- Helping your child relax before bed. Consider a relaxing bath, reading a book together and playing soothing music.
- Making sure your child gets enough exercise every day.
- Putting a bell on the door, so you can be alerted when they start sleepwalking.
- Getting 20 minutes of sunlight exposure in the morning to improve their sleep quality and help regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Perhaps you could start having breakfast together in your garden or on your patio.
- Addressing any potential stressors and anxiety triggers like problems in school or with friends, body image, the death of a pet or loved one or moving to a new home.
- Teaching your child healthy stress-management techniques like doing breathing exercises, exercising daily, journaling and talking to you or potentially a therapist.
You can also try some other natural remedies that will help your child sleep better, such as:
- Using a lavender pillow spray
- Reducing their sugar intake during the day
- Increasing their intake of foods that promote sleep
- Avoiding late suppers
If you’re still worried and want to keep a closer eye on them, you can temporarily let your child sleep in your room. Sleepwalking is something your child will more than likely outgrow. Still, if you’re concerned that there may be more serious underlying issues, like anxiety, your doctor will advise you on the best way forward towards peaceful and uninterrupted sleep.