Sleep walking and sleep talking

Sleep walking and sleep talking are when your child walks around or talks as if awake, but is actually asleep. Sleep walking and sleep-talking do not hurt your child, and most kids grow out of it.

Sleep walking and sleep talking usually happen in deep sleep, often during the first few hours of the night. Your child might:

  • Get out of bed and walk around as if awake, but not respond normally to you
  • Have a conversation with you, but they probably won’t remember it in the morning.

About sleep walking

Sleepwalking is quite common. Around 7-15% of children sleepwalk, and usually there is nothing wrong emotionally or psychologically.

Children aged 4-12 years are more likely to sleepwalk, and they often grow out of it as teenagers. Sleepwalking might happen once or twice each month, or up to a couple of times each night.

Your sleepwalking child might

  • Move about in their bed
  • Get out of bed and walk around the house
  • Perform simple tasks – for example, setting the table or getting dressed
  • Try to talk, but the conversation probably won’t make sense
  • Have their eyes open, with a glassy stare
  • Get upset, but they won’t remember it in the morning
  • Let themselves out of the house and wander around outside

Causes of sleepwalking

Sleepwalking is usually related to age and development, but some things can increase your child’s sleepwalking:

  • Lack of sleep because of poor sleep habits
  • Fever or illness
  • Family history of sleepwalking
  • Occasionally, medical conditions that cause poor sleep – such as, epilepsy, obstructive sleep apnoea, or anxiety

Managing sleep walking

Some tips on what to do when your child sleepwalks:

1. Stay calm and guide your child back to bed in a soothing manner.
Avoid waking your child in case they get upset. Waking them might also make the sleepwalking episode last longer.

2. Make the environment safe. Check that all doors and windows are securely locked. Remove any tripping hazards from your child’s room and hallway.

3. Check that your child is getting enough sleep. An earlier bedtime, or a regular bedtime, might reduce sleepwalking. See the Good Sleep Hygiene information sheet for more about this.

4. If your child is staying at someone else’s place overnight, tell the caregivers about the sleepwalking so they’ll know what to expect and can keep your
child safe.

Sleep Walking – when to talk to your health professional

Sleep walking usually doesn’t need treatment, and most children grow out of it as teenagers. However, you may want to talk to your health professional:

  1. If you are worried that your child’s sleepwalking might be caused by an illness or medical condition
  2. If, after using the good sleep hygiene tips your child is sleepwalking at least once every night, or your child’s sleepwalking is affecting the night sleep of other family members, or you’re worried your child might hurt themselves while sleepwalking

Professional treatment for sleep walking may include medication or behaviour strategies.

Managing sleep talking

1. Your child might sleep talk more regularly when they’re excited or worried about something, such as a concert, a holiday or a test. Talking with your child about the event in a calm and supportive way might help reduce night-time chatter.

2. It’s up to you whether you tell your child about the sleep talking. Keep in mind that children can sometimes become worried about falling asleep.

3. Sleep talking doesn’t harm your child. But it can be annoying for anyone who shares a room with the child. If it keeps other children awake, you might have to change the sleeping arrangements.

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