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Sleepwalking: How We Treat

Children's Hospital Colorado treats patients with sleepwalking concerns

Sleepwalking in children is usually treated by keeping the sleep walker safe during episodes until he or she grows out of it, usually by adolescence.

Here are some tips for helping your child through a sleepwalking episode:

  • Gently lead your child back to bed.
    • First, steer your child into the bathroom because he or she may be looking for a place to urinate.
    • Next, guide your child to his or her bedroom.
    • The episode may end once he or she is in bed.
    • Don't expect to awaken your child before he or she returns to normal sleep.
  • Protect your child from accidents.
    • Although accidents are rare, they do happen, especially if the child wanders outside.
    • Put gates on your stairways and special locks on your outside doors above your child's reach.
    • Consider locking windows.
    • Consider a motion detector outside the child’s room or on the staircase landing.
    • Avoid bunk beds for children who sleep walk.
  • Help your child stay rested.
    • Fatigue and a lack of sleep can lead to more frequent sleepwalking, as well as night terrors.
    • If your child needs to be awakened in the morning, that means he needs an earlier bedtime. Move lights-out time to 15 minutes earlier each night until your child can self-awaken in the morning.

If your child sleepwalks frequently, you may try prompted awakenings. Here are the steps:

    • For several nights, note how many minutes pass from the time your child falls asleep to the time he or she starts sleepwalking.
    • Then on the following nights awaken your child 15 minutes before the time you expect him to start sleepwalking.
    • Remind your child at bedtime that when you do this, his job is "to wake up fast."
    • Keep your child fully awake for 5 minutes.
    • Continue these prompted awakenings for seven nights in a row.
    • If your child starts sleepwalking again, see the sleep specialists at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Why choose Children’s Hospital Colorado for your child’s sleepwalking?

The Children’s Hospital Colorado Sleep Team is an excellent resource for treating children’s and adolescents’ sleepwalking. We have providers known internationally for their expertise in sleep research and sleep treatments. The team is made up of sleep specialists trained in different aspects of sleep treatments, including: sleep physicians who specialize in children’s breathing issues and children’s ear-nose-and-throat problems, a sleep-specialized psychologist, two sleep-specialized nurse practitioners, a sleep-specialized respiratory therapist and a dedicated sleep nurse.

We often coordinate care with other specialists and primary care physicians involved in each family’s treatment. Most importantly, we have very caring staff members who are willing to listen to families and “go the extra mile” to improve sleep and optimize development.