Sleepwalking is a condition also known as somnambulism. For children, it is a condition that occurs most often in the preteen years. According to Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician at the Children’s Medical Group in Atlanta, Ga., sleepwalking may affect as many as 15 percent of children. Somnambulism, or sleepwalking, involves more than simply walking while asleep. It can be simply sitting up in bed, or it can involve more inappropriate behaviors, such as opening closet doors and urinating inside. Sleepwalking in children can be frightening for parents, but there are steps that can be taken to help deal with the condition.
Set an alarm clock for about 45 minutes after the child falls asleep. Most sleepwalking activities occur within a couple of hours after falling asleep. An alarm that awakes the child can reset the sleep cycle, and the reset can help the child avoid sleepwalking episodes.
Reschedule the time for sleep. Sleepwalking can be a result of a child’s overtiredness. By setting an earlier bedtime, the tiredness trigger can be diminished as a factor for somnambulism.
Reduce the stress in the child’s life. Children can experience stress from a variety of factors, and a guidance counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist may be consulted in helping reduce stress in the child’s life. For parents who are experiencing marital problems, avoiding confrontations in front of the child may help reduce stress.
Keep track of the child’s sleepwalking patterns. If the child sleepwalks frequently and at similar times throughout the night, awaken the child 15 minutes before the expected sleepwalking episode. Make sure the child knows that it’s the child’s job to wake up fast and fully before going back to sleep.
Consult a physician if the sleepwalking persists. Certain medications can help stop children from sleepwalking and ease the symptoms of somnambulism.