Is someone you love a sleepwalker?

September 29, 2017 Swedish Health Team

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In this article:

  • Sleepwalking is more common in children, but it may occur in adults with sleep deprivation or sleep apnea.

  • Keep sleepwalkers safe by removing clutter around the home, hiding car keys and installing alarms or multiple locks on doors.

  • Visit your physician at Swedish if sleepwalking becomes a major problem.

Medically known as somnambulism, sleepwalking is a behavior disorder that starts during deep sleep and results in walking or other behaviors. While the most basic behavior is walking around the home, sleepwalkers are also at risk for performing tasks such as cooking and even driving.

Sleepwalking occurs more frequently in children although it can manifest in adults who are sleep deprived or those with sleep apnea. Sleepwalking symptoms include:

  • Talking during sleep
  • No memory of sleepwalking
  • Bedwetting or urination
  • Aggressive, hysterical or violent behavior

Whether it’s your partner or your child, it’s hard to sleep at night knowing they could be walking around without realizing it. Some people might believe that it is dangerous to wake a sleepwalker. However, letting them roam could prove even riskier.

Fortunately, there are ways to protect your sleepwalking loved ones. Here are some helpful safety tips for peace of mind:

  • Install a sleepwalking alarm on bedroom windows and doors to prevent your loved one from leaving the house or falling out of the window.
  • Keep your sleepwalker’s room and your house free from obstacles on the floor that they can trip over. Ensure that all furniture is safely secured to the walls.
  • If your children are young, avoid placing a sleepwalker on the top bunk. This puts them at risk of falling and hurting themselves.
  • Install a safety gate at the top and bottom of the stairs to prevent them from climbing in their sleep. It is also a good idea to install a safety gate in the kitchen to cut off access to any sharp knives or other utensils.
  • Store pills, cleaners, chemicals, sharp gardening objects and firearms out of reach.
  • If your spouse or partner is a sleepwalker, push their side of the bed up to a wall so if they try to get up they will have to climb over you.
  • Have your child or partner sleep on the ground floor to prevent them from accessing any windows or stairs.
  • Hide your child’s or partner’s car keys in a non-obvious place so they can’t get behind the wheel while asleep.
  • It may help to install multiple locks on any entrances to the house (front door, kitchen door, etc.) as an extra precaution in case the door alarms fail.
  • If you are traveling with a sleepwalker, it may be a good idea to bring a sleeping bag to place over their hotel bed and bring along any door or window alarms as a backup plan.
  • Sleepwalking often occurs when the person doesn’t have enough sleep, so ensure that they are not suffering from insomnia or other sleep disorders. If so, seek advice from a medical professional.
  • Ensure the sleepwalker is practicing relaxing pre-bedtime routines that will help them sleep. Blackout curtains are a good idea for ensuring a dark bedroom, and there are some aromatherapy treatments that can aid in calming the nervous system and promoting a good night’s sleep.

Hopefully, these safety tips will prepare you for the next time your child or partner has a sleepwalking episode. If you feel like you need some extra help,

consult with a clinician to see if there are treatments, natural or otherwise, that will help your loved one with their sleeping disorder.

Find a doctor

If you have questions about sleepwalking, contact Primary Care or Sleep Medicine services at Swedish. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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