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Parenting is a constant string of education. Kids are always doing things or needing things that we have to stop and research to find the cause and to see how we can support them best in these situations. Security items like blankets or special toys are one of the things I’ve looked into a lot for my kids. Another thing I’ve researched is Sleepwalking Children.
A scary encounter for any parent would be Sleepwalking Children. Is it common or is it worrisome?
Sleepwalking, or also known as somnambulism, can affect anywhere from 1%-15% of the population. It affects kids who are pre-school age 1% of the time, and school-age kids 2% of the time*. It’s most common for kids ages 4-8. If you have a little one who may be exhibiting signs of sleepwalking, you are not alone.
My son started sleepwalking within the last year. At the time of this post, he is currently 6 years old and it scared the holy moly out of me. This is when I knew I had to know what it meant and why it was happening. I was so scared that he could or even worse would hurt himself. I educated myself on this topic to know how to handle these situations and I learn SO much.
Despite its name, sleepwalking is rarely ever just walking. Did you know this?! I didn’t. Sometimes it’s as mild as just sitting up in bed and looking around, other times it’s walking around the house, and sometimes as extreme as leaving the house altogether (my worst fear). Things like urinating in the closet or the laundry room are common, especially in boys.
If you notice that your child is wandering around the house aimlessly within a few hours of falling asleep, it may be a sign of sleepwalking. Sleepwalking Children tend to experience sleepwalking episodes within a few hours of falling asleep or during their REM sleep cycle. It can involve incoherent conversations, aimless wandering around the house, and even screaming if accompanied by sleep terrors.
My son has some pretty crazy nights. I have that “Mom gene” and can hear all my kids tossing and turning and being restless. I can always tell when he is about to start wandering the house. He talks in his sleep first, then has arguments with people, after that he wanders and I guide him back to bed.
If your child struggles with bedwetting, the chances of them having sleepwalking episodes are more likely. Other conditions that may accompany bedwetting are night terrors along with sleep apnea. If you have any concerns that your child may be sleepwalking, it’s important to talk to your doctor to ensure there are no underlying conditions that could be harmful to your child.
This step is on my to-do list at our next visit. His “walks” are getting more frequent and some have even been scary.
There are many things that could be factors in our children’s sleepwalking. While sleepwalking in and of itself isn’t dangerous or life-threatening, there may be underlying reasons that it’s happening. As in, sleepwalking could be a symptom of something else.
Sleep Apnea could be causing your child’s sleepwalking. While it’s not common, it does affect some children. If your doctor suspects this may be an issue, he will likely order a sleep study to be done so they can monitor your child for an entire night to assess the issue.
Sometimes children who are struggling with anxiety may also have episodes of sleepwalking. If your child’s anxiety is causing episodes of sleepwalking, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it. In some extreme cases, your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medication for the benefit of the child. Stress and anxiety can actually be common in children. We like to use the Emoji Stress Balls to help after a rough day since I am not a huge fan of curing every little thing with medications. We also read a lot of stories to help calm our bodies and help the minds relax.
Poor Sleep Schedule / Sleep Deprivation
If your child is getting poor sleep, too little sleep, or doesn’t have a proper sleep routine, that may trigger sleepwalking. A child’s sleep habits are quintessential to their overall health. If a child isn’t getting enough sleep, or their quality of sleep is poor, it could cause Sleepwalking Children. Make sure you have a sleep routine that encourages a calm and restful environment, and that allows for your child to get 10-12 hours of sleep each night. Routines are so important for kids – they can even be life altering!!
We have nightly bedtimes and my kids “should” get enough sleep, however, as Mom’s we know its rare that the kids fall asleep as soon as their little heads hit the pillow. I mean, it DOES happen… but not as often as we’d like.
Night Terrors can also cause Sleepwalking Children. They are awful for every person involved and can be much more intense than just sleepwalking. If you think your child may be struggling with Night Terrors, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician and discuss some options that may help your child.
I have found a few things that trigger terrors in my kids. These may be a good place to start if you are looking for ideas.
- Sweets before bed. We have ice cream nights. Like most families. However, almost every night we have ice cream or a sweet snack before bed my son is up and sleepwalking within hours of falling asleep. These walks are generally more extreme than usual. So, we have moved our ice cream nights to earlier times vs closer to bedtime and it seemed to help.
- Cartoons/TV Shows. Oddly enough, my daughter who has never had a sleepwalking bout has nightmares a lot. She was extremely sensitive to tv shows. It was so bad at one point I had to put blocks on the tv for shows since her brothers seemed to still want to watch them. Scooby Doo, Ghostbusters, Ninja Turtles, any tv show whatsoever that had guns or someone got hurt, all of it. It was really rough. We watched a lot of Dora the Explorer, Diego, Doc Mc Stuffins, etc. You bet my boys sure loved all that! NOT!
- Tension in the home. All of my kids have always been super sensitive to tension amongst others in our home. I personally went through some really rough relationships before I got to where I am today and my kids suffered. This caused them to not be able to fully relax and have healthy sleep habits. Eliminating the exposure of any animosity will help by leaps and bounds.
Will they always Sleepwalk?
Sleepwalking Children typically “grow out” of their sleepwalking by the time they hit their teen years. Some may grow out of it sooner, while others will always sleepwalk. I have three other children and none of them have ever had a sleepwalking experience. Granted my youngest is just getting to the age this all starts, here is to hoping it bypasses him.
*According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2004 Sleep in America Poll