Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Snow 23° Snow
News >  Features

Ask Doctor K: Understanding sleepwalking can help calm worries

Anthony L. Komaroff M.D.

DEAR DOCTOR K: My 8-year-old son has started sleepwalking. I’m worried he will hurt himself in his sleep. Is there anything I can do to stop him from sleepwalking?

DEAR READER: A person who is sleepwalking walks or makes other movements while being still largely asleep. A sleepwalker can be difficult to awaken fully and typically has no memory of the episode in the morning. I hope it will ease your worry to know that episodes of sleepwalking are usually brief.

Some sleepwalkers simply sit up in bed and move their legs. Others carry out more complex tasks. These may include dressing and undressing, eating, or urinating. Sleepwalking episodes usually occur one to two hours after going to sleep. They last from one to 30 minutes. A sleepwalker has open eyes and a blank expression. At first, their eyes make them appear to be awake, but the blank expression makes it clear nothing is registering.

Sleepwalking is common in children, particularly preschoolers. Children usually stop sleepwalking during adolescence, as their nervous systems mature.

To help a sleepwalking child return to normal sleep, gently lead him back to bed. You don’t need to wake your child.

Treatment is not usually necessary. But if your son sleepwalks frequently, a technique called prompted awakenings may help.

Children are more likely to sleepwalk when they are overtired or anxious. Provide a relaxing bedtime routine for your child and set an early bedtime. Counseling may help if your child is dealing with stress.

In some cases, a doctor may prescribe medications to reduce or eliminate sleepwalking episodes.

For now, focus on keeping your son safe. You can help him avoid injuries by making the bedroom and house as safe as possible. For example:

• Don’t let your son sleep in a bunk bed, at least not on the top bunk.

• Make sure there are no sharp or breakable objects near his bed.

• Install gates on stairways.

• Lock doors and windows.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.