Does sleepwalking need to be treated?

For children who sleepwalk more often, your doctor may recommend a treatment method called scheduled awakening. This treatment works as follows: for several nights you record the time between when your child falls asleep and the beginning of the sleepwalking event. Then for the next several nights in a row, you arouse your child 15 minutes before the expected time of the event. You do not need to completely awaken the child, simply disturb the sleep enough to a brief arousal. This disrupts the sleep cycle transiently and may abort the sleepwalking in some cases.

Other helpful ways you might be able to reduce your child's sleepwalking events:

  • Have your child relax at bedtime by listening to soft music or relaxation tapes or CDs.
  • Establish regular nap and sleep schedules and stick with them – both nighttime and wake-up times. Naps are important in the younger child. This will eliminate sleep deprivation, a known trigger for sleepwalking.
  • Cut back on the amount of liquids your child consumes in the evening and make sure he or she goes to the bathroom before bedtime (a full bladder contributes to sleepwalking).
  • Avoid caffeine near bedtime (caffeinated products include coffee, tea, colas, some non-cola pops, energy drinks, and chocolates).
  • Make sure your child's bedroom is quiet, calm, comfortable (< 75° F), and sufficiently dark.

If stress is thought to contribute to the problem, counseling may help. Hypnosis or biofeedback may also be looked into.

On rare occasions, doctors may prescribe a medication to help your child sleep.

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