Sleepwalking in children: why it occurs and how to treat it

How common is sleepwalking in children? Sleepwalking or sleepwalking is diagnosed in 15% of the population aged 4 to 8 years, and cases of this disorder are often found in adolescents.

The disease is most often psychogenic in nature, but it can also be a consequence of somatic pathologies. Drug treatment is prescribed if seizures occur frequently and create situations that threaten the health and life of the child.

What is sleepwalking

This is often called somnambulism – parasomnia (sleep disorder), manifested in the form of complex physical activity without awakening. A sleeping child automatically sits in bed, gets up, walks without waking up, performs other complex actions. At the same time, consciousness is turned off, the next morning the patient does not remember about his own behavior.

The reasons

Despite the fact that the phenomenon has long been known and has been comprehensively studied, its exact origin has not been established. For a long time, adult and child sleepwalking was considered a consequence of the so-called energy of moonlight. However, the moon does not directly affect sleep disorders if sleepwalking does not have its own causes. An indirect effect can have a bright light on a full moon, since lighting and extraneous sounds can be a “signal” for the onset of an attack.

Factors provoking the child’s motor activity in a dream:

  • unfavorable psychological climate in the family;
  • strong impressions, including positive ones;
  • birth injuries and pathologies of the nervous system (epilepsy, tumors);
  • sleepwalking in adolescents can be caused by changes in the hormonal and psycho-emotional background, characteristic of the puberty period.

Despite the fact that night walking is a phenomenon not fully studied and partially surrounded by a mystical halo, the mechanism of its formation is known. Normally, in the process of falling asleep, all brain centers are inhibited at the same time. With somnambulism, there are bursts of electrical activity in the areas of the brain responsible for coordination and movement. At the same time, consciousness continues to “sleep”. This partial sleep is triggered by a sudden loud sound or light.


The manifestations of somnambulism in children can be different: from simple sitting in bed to performing complex manipulations and walking. However, there are general symptoms that determine the presence of this parasomnia . First of all, this is the lack of consciousness, despite the fact that sleepwalking children move in a coordinated manner . Attempts to speak are useless, the sleeping person does not control himself, he does not realize the danger of his actions.

The eyes of the sufferer of somnambulism are open at the time of the attack, but the gaze is “absent”, directed into the distance. The face has a detached expression, which indicates a lack of emotion. The end of the attack and amnesia are also characteristic.

After a while, the child returns to bed or goes to bed elsewhere, falling asleep completely. After waking up, he does not remember anything about what happened at night, and if he manages to wake him up, he does not immediately realize what is happening, he may cry.


The need for treatment of sleepwalking in children is determined by its causes and severity. In most cases, sleepwalking attacks are rare and mild: the child sits up in bed, and it is enough to simply put him back. The cause of episodic sleepwalking is short-term stress or an excess of vivid impressions. Neurologists adhere to the tactics of waiting, considering such somnambulism to be an age-related transitory phenomenon.

Traditional folk remedies in this case are hygiene and sleep, taking warm baths with sea salt or herbs before bed. You can give your child an infusion of chamomile, which has a sedative effect, or milk with honey at night. Special rituals such as bedtime stories are of great importance in calming the nervous system.

Severe cases of parasomnia , when nocturnal activity is often observed and is manifested by walking, other complex and dangerous manipulations, require treatment and the use of drugs. Chronic sleep disorder adversely affects the nervous system, well-being, and the intellectual development of children.

If drug treatment of sleepwalking in a child is shown, sedatives, antipsychotic drugs, antidepressants are prescribed. When the cause of the disease is a brain tumor, surgery is performed.


Somnambulism in preschool children and adolescents is a common phenomenon and most often goes away on its own. Consultation with a neurologist is required in severe cases, when seizures are frequent and medical or surgical methods of treatment are indicated. A friendly atmosphere in the family, the absence of stress, and adherence to the daily routine will help reduce the risk of developing this parasomnia . 

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