It can be very worrying for parents if they suspect that their child is sleep walking. It can be hard to know if their child is genuinely sleepwalking or just waking to play during the night.
What is sleepwalking?
In true sleep walking the person enters a state of partial awakeness during REM sleep where they may walk, talk and perform certain automatic functions such as eating. If a person is prone to sleepwalking it's advisable to create a safe environment during their sleep period such as making sure that all doors and windows are left closed and there are door alarms at the door to ensure that there is an alarm if anyone leaves the car.
Children are generally more vulnerable than adults to sleepwalking as they have an immature brain. Brain injuries can also make people more vulnerable to sleepwalking.
How is sleepwalking diagnosed?
You can try and stay up all night to watch your child or set up a camera in their room, but the easiest way to get your child diagnosed is to get them into a sleep study. You can take them to a GP and get a referral to a sleep study. They can monitor the child's sleep including their brainwaves during sleep and their physical movements. This can help to determine a cause and treatment plan for the sleep walking.
How can sleepwalking be treated?
Sleepwalking frequency can often be drastically reduced by improving sleep hygiene, such as having enough sleep each night, a comfortable bed and a regular bedtime routine. Lowering stress can also help to improve overall sleep quality and reduce the frequency of sleepwalking incidents. As many children grow out of sleepwalking parents often choose to simply provide a safe environment and deal with the incidents with a focus on sleep quality.
In some cases, sleepwalking can have a medical cause, including being a common side effect of some medications which can be alternated with other medications in needed. Sleepwalking can also be a sign of certain other issues including brain cancers so it is very important to have a proper diagnosis and sleep study carried out.
For more severe incidents there are also medical options such as medication which includes sleeping tablets and muscle relaxants.
If you are concerned that your child may be sleepwalking it is important to keep them safe in the short term, as well as getting a sleep study and diagnosis to ensure that you can manage the condition going forward.