Sleepwalking is a disorder that affects many children....about 17% of children walk or perform complex behaviors during deep sleep at some point between the ages of 4 and 12. Though parents worry greatly about what could happen to a child while sleep walking, doctors say that it is not nearly as dangerous as you may think. The best way to deal with your child's sleepwalking, or somnambulism, is to let him or her simply outgrow it.
Though somnambulism can be found in adults and young children, most people sleepwalk most between 8 and 12. The number of those affected drops significantly in adult populations, though that 4% has real potential risk.
For children, though, the risks are minor. Most sleepwalkers get up during the first third of their night. Especially for young children, this often means that parents are still awake to experience it. Sleepwalkers eyes are often open but have a confused and out of focus look. If the child speaks, it is usually incoherent. Doctors say it is best not to wake the child as he will be confused upon waking. Simply watch your child; as long as he is not harming himself or others the event should run its course within a few minutes. If you are not comfortable with that, calmly and quietly guide him back to bed, where he should return to normal sleep undisturbed.
Sleepwalking has been recorded in history all the way back to Greece, though little is known about the experience even today. It is common that children will follow their routine patterns of the day while sleepwalking; stopping by the fridge, heading to the TV room, etc. Sleepwalking does seem to have at least some genetic connection, as children and siblings of sleepwalkers are ten times more likely to sleepwalk themselves.
Thankfully, most children outgrow somnambulism by puberty, so worries of real danger are generally unfounded. If you are worried about your child climbing out a window of falling down the stairs, put a gate at the top of the stairs each night and lock windows before going to sleep.
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