What is sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking (also called somnambulism) is a behavior in which the child gets up during the night and walks or does other activities. The child usually does not remember getting up or being engaged in the activities.

Sleepwalking tends to occur during the first part of the night, usually within an hour or two of falling asleep.

Do I need to be concerned if my child sleepwalks?

No. Most children who sleepwalk do not have emotional or psychological problems. Childhood sleepwalking usually disappears on its own at the time of puberty, but may last longer. About 18% of people sleepwalk at some point in their life.

What are the causes of sleepwalking?

Causes of sleepwalking include:

  • Hereditary (the condition may run in families).
  • Lack of sleep or extreme fatigue.
  • Interrupted sleep or unproductive sleep, from disorders like sleep apnea (brief pauses in the child's breathing pattern during sleep).
  • Illness or fever.
  • Certain medications, such as sleeping pills.
  • Stress, anxiety.
  • Going to bed with full bladder.
  • Noises or touches.
  • Changes in sleep environment or different sleep setting (example: a hotel).
  • Migraines.
  • Head injuries.

What are the symptoms of sleepwalking?

In addition to getting out of bed and walking around, other symptoms exhibited by sleepwalkers include:

  • Sitting up in bed and repeating movements, such as rubbing eyes or tugging on pajamas.
  • Looking dazed (sleepwalkers' eyes are open but they do not see the same way they do when they are fully awake).
  • Clumsy or awkward behavior.
  • Not responding when spoken to, or responses may not make sense.
  • Being difficult to wake up.
  • Talking in their sleep.
  • Urinating in undesirable places (for instance, a closet).

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/22/2020.


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