In A Better You, Syndromes & Disorders

Sleep Walking

Many children sleep walk during the deep stages of sleep at night. Sleep walking behavior can range from harmless to dangerous. It can be frightening to parents to find children wandering through their home at night. It often starts in early childhood and often they outgrow this behvaior by the time the child reaches their teens.

What causes people to sleep walk ? There are many causes of sleep walking like fatigue, irregular sleep patterns, fever, illness, medications, and stress. Sleepwalkers get out of bed and walk around the house or apartment this is one of the most common symptoms. Children often look dazed, talk in their sleep, and move clumsily about. Sometimes they sit up in bed rubbing their eyes or fussing with the pajamas they wear. It occurs in both boys and girls. Sometimes bed wetting occurs in different places and night terrors with the child screaming.

Sleepwalking is not dangerous but can lead to dangerous situations. Children might walk down stairs and fall or open a window. It is most often not a sign of emotional or mental problems. In most cases children will not even remember the incident the next day. An occasional incident is not a problem but continual episodes suggest a sleep disorder that may many need treatment. Children need to be protected from sleepwalking injuries.

Sleepwalking occurs during the deep stages of sleep when we do not dream or have rapid eye movement. An episode can last a few minutes to several. Sometimes a person that sleep walks will get up to make a snack, and talk. This often occurs in adults. When incident occur more than once or two times a week and lead to dangerous situations consult your doctor.

In some cases sleepwalking can be caused by depression, or separation anxiety in children. It often is associated with medical conditions like narcolepsy, migraines, restless leg syndrome and GERD. Before seeing a doctor you might want to keep a sleep dairy of your child’s behavior or the adult with the sleep walking disorder. Write down a list of symptoms and go with the child or person that suffers from sleep walking to the doctor.

Some sleepwalkers pee in unusual areas like the closet , the kitchen floor, or in a wastebasket. This can be a symptom you would write down and discuss with the doctor. Some kids use the bathroom but might go in the bathtub or laundry hamper not knowing what their doing. More dangerous behavior might be turning on the stove or falling down stairs.

Miranda Kelly says she has been sleepwalking since she was six or seven. She has woken up in many strange places like in the kitchen and on the floor of the bathroom. Sleepwaking is the inability of the brain to wake up according to Alvon Avidon a neurologist at Los Angles Sleep Disorder Clinic where he is the director. Russell Rosenberg chairman of the National Sleep Foundation says most people do not remember the incident the next day.

Some people sleep walk into their adulthood. There is a genetic aspect to sleep walking if the parent sleep walks the children may inherit the problem. A comedian Mike Birbiglia has found humor from some of his experiences. He once jumped through a hotel window trying to escape a missile that was after him. When he landed on the lawn in his boxer shorts there was blood on his legs. Since he was alone he ended up driving himself to the hospital. He eventually went to a doctor and was diagnosed with a sleep disorder.

One girl with a sleep walking disorder woke up dressed and got ready to go to school. She would often then go back to bed. This lasted through middle school. One morning a mother went to wake up her daughter that sleep walks. She was not in her bed she had gone to the tree house her hiding place. She walked into the house and asked why everyone was searching for her.

Another girl recalls her sister coming into the bathroom late at night when she is brushing her teeth. She starts to run the water for a bath. When asked what she is doing she says she is taking a bath. When the tub is filled she jumps in with her nightgown. A few minutes later she awakes and starts to cry. Her sister is shocked to realize that she had been sleeping.

Sleepwalking Treatments

In many cases children outgrow sleeping walking and do not need treatment. Still parents will need to make the house safe for children that sleep walk. Sleep walking in children is more common than most people believe. Parents might want to set up bedrooms on the ground floor or put up gates at the top of the stairs. Remove toys or electric cords that can be tripped on in the child’s bedroom.

Door and windows should be locked with an alarm so parents know if the child is sleepwalking. Keep car keys hidden with older teens that sleep walk. Setting an earlier bedtime and doing relaxing exercise before watching TV or reading may be helpful. When you find a child sleep walking it is suggested that you lead them gently back to bed and not try to awaken them. Often when they are awakened they become confused and disoriented.

Treatments with a doctor or sleep clinic may be needed as a method on how to stop sleep walking. There are sleep disorder clinics at many hospitals that treat sleep disorders. Some of the treatments might be medications that help with sleep like benzodiazepines and anti-depressants especially if sleepwalking is disruptive to the family. Often a sleep clinic will diagnose sleep disorders in serious cases and outline an individual treatment plan with the family. Some sleep clinics have overnight studies called polysomnography to diagnose sleep apena and other disorders.

Whether adult or kids sleep walk there is treatment for both. Sometimes treatment with some clinics involves learning self hypnosis. A relaxing routine before bed time often paves the way for better sleep patterns. Taking a warm bath, doing a puzzle, or drinking a cup of hot cocoa helps. Give a young child a stuffed animals to sleep with.

Reduce stress which sometimes is what causes sleepw alking in children and teens. Encourage healthy eating and exercise daily to work off tension. Walking, biking, yard work or running are all good for the body and mind. Talk to your children about what is bothering them to help relieve stress.

At night sit with the child and turn off the lights then talk about shadows and the dark with your child. This will get comfortable with how the room looks at night. A night light might give them comfort and help them get to sleep better. Keep the computer out of the bedroom those with computers in the bedroom often sleep less. Have computers in a separate room and limit time spent on them. Try to keep rooms dark at night for better sleep overall. This tips are for sleep walking adults and kids sleep walking.

Sleep is essential to children, teens, and adults well being. Remember sleep walking causes a big disruption in a person’s sleep pattern. It is as important as healthy eating and exercise on a daily basis. Often teens don’t sleep well until after 11 p.m.. They need about 9-1/2 hours of sleep to function well but often don’t get this. At least 8-1/2 is required but most don’t get these hours.

Teens should take naps after school or make sleep more of a priority. Don’t drink coffee an hour before going to bed. Establish a regular bedtime and wakeup time and stick to this. Don’t eat and exercise a few hours before going to bed. Try to establish a regular routine before bed that relaxes you.

Teens can keep a dairy of sleep patterns especially if they sleep walk to come to recognize sleep patterns. Keeping bedroom around 65 degrees helps everyone get a better night’s sleep. The mattress should be supportive not too soft or hard. Even the quality of the sheets and what you wear all contribute to a good nights sleep. Choose pajamas for younger children that breathe so they do not sweat at night. Keep the child’s room clutter free that means pick up toys and clothing and put them away. Decorate but keep it simple not cluttered. Try to reduce noise when your child goes to sleep lower the TV or close the door.

There are many causes of sleep walking the most important point is that it needs to be watched and treated when it becomes dangerous.

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