Sleepwalking is a tendency to wander during deep sleep. Sleepwalking most often occurs in children 4 to 15 years old. 15% of normal children sleepwalk.
There is no known cause for sleepwalking. It tends to run in families and occurs more often in boys.
Your child will start sleepwalking 1 to 2 hours after going to sleep and may walk around for 5 to 20 minutes. Children will usually stop sleepwalking during adolescence.
First, steer your child into the bathroom because he may be looking for a place to urinate. Then guide him to his bedroom. He may stop once he's in bed. Don't expect to awaken him before he returns to normal sleep.
Although accidents are rare, they do happen, especially if the child wanders outside. Sleepwalkers can be hit by a car or bitten by a dog, or they may become lost. Put gates on your stairways and special locks on your outside doors (above your child's reach). Avoid having your child sleep in a bunk bed.
Fatigue and a lack of sleep can lead to more frequent sleepwalking, as well as night terrors. If your child needs to be awakened in the morning, that means he needs an earlier bedtime. Move lights-out time to 15 minutes earlier each night until your child can self-awaken in the morning.
If your child sleepwalks frequently, try to stop this distressing sleep pattern. For several nights, note how many minutes pass from the time your child falls asleep to the time he starts sleepwalking. Then on the following nights awaken your child 15 minutes before the time you expect him to start sleepwalking. Remind your child at bedtime that when you do this, his job is "to wake up fast." Keep your child fully awake for 5 minutes. Continue these prompted awakenings for 7 nights in a row. If your child starts sleepwalking again, repeat this seven-night training program.