Sleepwalking can affect anyone but it's most common in children. It's usually nothing to worry about, and most children grow out of it by the time they reach puberty.
This page explains:
- why some people sleepwalk
- what happens when a person sleepwalks
- what you should do if you find someone sleepwalking
- what you can do to prevent accidents
Why some people sleepwalk
A person is more likely to sleepwalk if a close relative of theirs also sleepwalks.
Generally, the following factors can trigger sleepwalking or make it worse:
- sleep deprivation
- drinking too much alcohol
- certain drugs such as tranquillisers or antihistamines
Therefore it can help to get more sleep and practise relaxation exercises to reduce stress
What happens when a person sleepwalks
Some people who sleepwalk may just sit up in bed, while others may wander around the home, open cupboards and even get dressed or eat. Some severely affected sleepwalkers have been known to drive a car.
The sleepwalker will often have their eyes open, but their eyes will appear glassy and unfocused.
If you talk to a sleepwalker, they may respond slowly and express simple thoughts or may not say anything that makes sense.
Most sleepwalking episodes last no longer than 10 minutes. The person may wake up or just go back to sleep in their own bed. If woken, the sleepwalker usually feels confused and doesn't remember the episode.
What you should do if you find someone sleepwalking
The best thing to do if you see someone sleepwalking is to make sure they don't hurt themselves and they're safe. Guide them back to bed gently. If undisturbed, they'll often go back to sleep again.
Try not to wake them up, as this may leave them feeling confused or frightened.
What you can do to prevent accidents
You may need to consider locking windows and doors if you live with a sleepwalker.
It's also a good idea to keep the environment safe from sharp or harmful objects, and remove obstacles the sleepwalker could trip over.
You should only need to consult a sleep specialist if the sleepwalker is severely affected and at risk of injuring themselves. Ask your doctor for a referral.