What is it? Sleepwalking, which is most common in children, occurs during stage 3 and stage 4 sleep, the deepest levels, and is thought to be caused by a partial arousal from deep sleep. While the child's brainwaves are those of deep sleep, the sleepwalker moves as though awake. The episodes are typically brief—less than ten minutes—and usually occur during the first three hours of sleep. The sleepwalker usually has no recollection of the event in the morning.
How common is it? Sleepwalking occurs in more than 10% of children. Most children outgrow it. It appears to run in families. Sleepwalking episodes may be triggered by fever or some medications. Unpredictable sleep schedules, sleep deprivation and stress may also contribute to sleepwalking episodes.
What's the treatment? The child's safety during these episodes is of primary concern. Parents should ensure that doors and windows are locked and that no objects are left out that could cause falls or other injuries. When a child is sleepwalking, gently guide the child back into bed. Don't try to awaken him.
Hypnosis can be an effective treatment. Medications such as benzodiazepine or tricyclic antidepressants at bedtime can also be effective, but rebound episodes often occur when the medication is stopped.
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