My 7-year-old sleep­walks fre­quently. What’s go­ing on?

Parents (USA) - - Kids - News + Ideas - —Hat­tie Hayes

It’s more com­mon than you think. “About one out of six kids will sleep­walk at some point,” says Michelle Cara­ballo, M.D., a pe­di­atric pul­mo­nolo­gist and sleep-medicine spe­cial­ist at Chil­dren’s Health, in Dal­las. Gen­er­ally, kids may start to sleep­walk be­tween the ages of 4 and 6; the be­hav­ior peaks be­tween 8 and 12. They usu­ally out­grow it dur­ing ado­les­cence.

And, yes, your child re­ally is asleep. Sleep­walk­ing falls into a cat­e­gory of dis­or­ders called para­som­nias that oc­cur in a stage of deep non-rem sleep. He won’t re­mem­ber it the next morn­ing and prob­a­bly won’t know he does it un­less you tell him. It may be more likely to hap­pen when he’s overly tired, stressed, or sleep­ing some­where dif­fer­ent, like at a friend’s house.

You can’t pre­dict how of­ten your child will sleep­walk, but it tends to oc­cur about one to two hours after bed­time. “Most kids wan­der aim­lessly,” says Dr. Cara­ballo. “But to be safe, in­stall baby gates on stairs, equip ex­te­rior doors with alarms and locks placed high, stash away sharp ob­jects, and clear the f loor of trip haz­ards.”

And as tempted as you may be, don’t wake up your sleep­walker—it could make the event more se­vere and fright­en­ing for him. “Just gen­tly guide him back to bed,” says Dr. Cara­ballo. The next morn­ing, re­frain from ask­ing about it as it may make him feel afraid or guilty. If it comes up, re­as­sure him that it’s not his fault and you’ll keep him safe.

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