It is not uncommon for my youngest to walk into the TV room in a daze about 2 hours after her bedtime, and either mutter some rubbish which we can’t understand, or take one look at us and then plonk herself down on the couch and continue sleeping there.
Sometimes she is able to have a conversation with us, but we’ve figured out that when she starts vigorously scratching her nose, she’s fast asleep! This usually leaves us giggling as one of us has to calmly walk her back to bed, trying to hold the laughter in. She thinks this is a huge joke when I tell her in the morning that she sleepwalked the night before, as she cannot remember a thing.
It can be quite alarming when you realise for the first time that your child is sleepwalking and you’re also not quite sure how you should handle it. Most of the literature says not to wake a sleepwalker, although if they are in immediate danger, of course you should.
Did you know that sleepwalking is most common in children aged 3 – 7 years old, and that 1% – 15% of the general population is prone to sleepwalking? It normally occurs during the deep sleep (REM sleep) phase, which would explain my daughter’s casual strolling two hours after she’s fallen asleep. So what can you do to minimise the prevalence of sleepwalking if you have a child prone to it? Here are a few DO’s and DON’T’s to help you along:
- DO establish a solid bedtime routine. One of the reasons children sleepwalk is sleep deprivation, so make sure they are in bed on time, and encourage some quiet time before bedtime to avoid hyperactivity.
- DON’T indulge in caffeine or stimulants before bedtime (remember chocolate contains caffeine too) See my post on reducing caffeine intake in children.
- DO avoid eating large meals just before bedtime. A large meal just before bed raises the metabolic rate and body temperature, making it harder to fall asleep.
- DO exercise during the day as it promotes good sleep.
- DON’T spend the hour before bedtime in front of a screen. Read why screen time is bad for your little one.
- DO get lots of exposure to natural sunlight, to keep the body’s sleep-wake cycle in check – just remember your SPF!
- DO install gates at stairways and close doors and windows if you have a sleepwalker who tries to escape.
The good news is that sleepwalking is normally not indicative of any underlying psychiatric condition and that children usually outgrow sleepwalking, but if you’re concerned it’s best to consult your child’s doctor.
Picture Credit: freepik.com