Sleepwalking is a type of sleep disorder. It leads to complex movement or action during sleep. Sleepwalking may include simple actions like walking or talking or more dangerous tasks like cooking or driving. The person often has no memory of the event since they are still asleep.
It is not clear why some people are more likely to sleepwalk than others. Sleepwalking may be triggered by:
Sleepwalking is more common in children up to about 12 years old. It can happen in adults.
Your chances of sleepwalking are higher if you have:
Movements or action during sleep is the most common symptom. Someone who is sleepwalking:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health past. A physical exam will be done. A sleep study may be done. Sleep will watched in a clinic. This will show possible sleep problems. An EEG may be done. It measures brain waves and can help to rule out other problems.
Treatment may not be needed if sleepwalking does not happen often. Children may also grow out of it as they age. Sleepwalking may need treatment if it:
Treatment steps will be based on needs. Steps may include:
Make the home safer for the sleepwalker. You may need to:
If possible, guide a sleepwalker back to bed. If needed, it is OK to wake a sleepwalker. Wake them gently and guide them back to bed.
Sleepwalking can be stopped by waking just before it would happen. Sleep and sleepwalking will be tracked over many nights. The sleepwalker can then be woken up 15 minutes before sleepwalking normally happens. Even a short break in sleep may stop sleepwalking from happening.
Steps that may help include:
The tendency to sleepwalk cannot be prevented. Treatment and good sleep habits may decrease the number of events.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Sleep Foundation
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Better Sleep Council Canada
Sleepwalking. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/sleepwalking. Updated June 27, 2017. Accessed February 4, 2020.
Sleepwalking. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/sleepwalking. Updated May 23, 2019. Accessed February 4, 2020.
Sleepwalking. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/abnormal-sleep-behaviors/sleepwalking. Accessed February 4, 2020.
Last reviewed January 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD