For some of us, sleepwalking is a nuisance. We may occasionally wander and end up waking up somewhere else. For others, it is a great danger. People who sleepwalk regularly risk causing themselves and others great injury. If you or your child sleepwalks, there are things you can do to take control and keep everyone safe.
Sleepwalking is when someone performs an activity normally done awake, while they are asleep. This may include simply walking around the bedroom or more complicated things like cooking or even driving. This can happen any time during the night and during any stage of sleep, not just during dream cycles.
For most people, the best cure for sleepwalking is time. Sleepwalking most commonly happens in older children and usually stops when they hit puberty. While other methods may help, the best treatment is to keep doors and windows locked and keep dangerous objects and sharps corners and obstacles away from where the child might sleepwalk. Remember that people can often perform more complex activities in their sleep, like unlocking doors and getting past other obstacles which are normally there when the person is awake.
If a child consistently sleepwalks at the same time every night, one treatment method is to wake them up 15 to 20 minutes before it normally happens and keep them up until it would have stopped. While this is often inconvenient for parents, if your child is endangering themselves and other treatments aren’t stopping the problem, this may be the only option.
You’ve probably been told over and over never to wake a sleepwalker, but this is simply a myth. Waking a sleepwalker will not give them a heart attack or any other serious health problem, though if you keep waking them up, you may be disrupting the restfulness of their sleep.
Often you’re sleepwalking because your sleep just isn’t as restful as it could be. To sleep better, try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule, cut alcohol and stimulants out of your diet (especially late in the day), and take distracting objects such as the TV out of your room. You may also benefit by doing meditation or other relaxation techniques before bed. By getting a more consistent, rejuvenating sleep, you’ll not only sleepwalk less, you’ll feel better when you’re up and moving during the day.
While some children simply never outgrow sleepwalking, if you develop the problem as an adult, it could indicate a more serious medical problem. If you’ve started to sleepwalk regularly and never have before, let your doctor know so they can give you a check-up. Medical conditions known to cause sleepwalking include irregular heartbeat, fever, acid reflux (heartburn), night-time asthma, sleep apnea, night-time seizures, and certain psychiatric disorders.
While you may still have sleepwalking episodes, these steps are a great way to start being proactive about the problem. With some effort you can keep yourself and your family members safe.