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Sleepwalking is the tendency to get out of bed and wander during deep sleep. It usually occurs within two hours of bedtime.
Sleepwalking is an inherited tendency, which means the child gets it from his or her parents. The condition is caused when a child only partially wakes up during sleep. Children who sleepwalk can usually follow their parent’s instructions, but are hard to fully wake.
Occasionally sleepwalking is increased if the child has sleep deprivation, sleep apnea or is using certain medications such as Benadryl. Sleepwalking can increase if the room is hot, the child has a fever or if the child has some inflammation.
Children 4 to 15 years old are most likely to sleepwalk. Up to 15% of children sleepwalk. Children usually stop sleepwalking on their own during adolescence.
Often hand-written “sleep logs” filled out by families are used to track sleep and sleepwalking. Tests are not typically needed unless other sleep disorders are suspected.
The most important part of diagnosing sleepwalking is talking with the family to get a thorough sleep history. This conversation usually takes place through one of the sleep clinics with a physician or nurse practitioner specializing in assessing and treating sleep disorders. These medical providers may also recommend further evaluations to fully explore all possible contributions to the sleepwalking.
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:
If your child sleepwalks frequently, you may try prompted awakenings. Here are the steps:
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.
Pulmonology - Pediatric, Pediatrics
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner