Sleepwalking is more common than you might think, therefore, knowing how to keep a sleepwalker safe should be common knowledge. A result of not getting enough sleep, high-stress levels or a number of other things, sleepwalking can affect both adults and children. Thankfully, most people who sleepwalk are perfectly healthy. However, sleepwalking can be unnerving for the people experiencing it and those around them. A potentially dangerous habit, there are a few different reasons it manifests. Stress and sleep deprivation being some of the top causes. Here is some need-to-know information and a few ways to keep a sleepwalker safe.
In the most basic terms, a sleepwalking disorder causes people to move around and perform complex actions while they are asleep. These actions can range from walking or running through the house to more dangerous things such as driving or climbing out windows. When it comes to more complex actions, such as driving while asleep, it is easy to why it is so important to keep a sleepwalker safe.
Characteristically, when someone is sleepwalking, their eyes will be open with a glassy haze. They will also be slow to answer any questions, or they might not answer at all.
The most common time for sleepwalking to occur is within the first third of the night. This is when you are in the deepest stages of sleep, called NREM sleep. During NREM sleep, your grey matter is peacefully quiet and inactive, and your brainwaves are slow. However, your body is in its most active sleep stage, tossing and turning more than any other time during the night.
How Common Is Sleepwalking?
Firstly, kids are significantly more likely to experience sleepwalking episodes than adults. Sleepwalking is actually thought to be a reasonably normal part of child development. The National Sleep foundation even estimates that sleepwalking can affect as much as 40% of children, generally between the ages of eight and twelve. So, if junior suddenly starts gallivanting around the house way past his bedtime, there is no reason to be too alarmed. Most children will outgrow the habit by the time they are teenagers. Though your child might outgrow the habit, it still important to have a list of tips that can keep a sleepwalker safe on-hand. It might not be temporary but that does not mean it is without its dangers.
Sleepwalking doesn’t only affect those that still spend a significant portion of their time on the playground. According to experts published in the National Sleep Foundation, between 2% and 3% of adults sleepwalk at some point or another. While sleepwalking is often just a normal part of growing up for kids, adults are more likely to have an underlying condition. This makes knowing how to keep a sleepwalker safe an even higher priority.
Habits Of sleepwalkers
As is apparent by the name, sleepwalkers are inclined to walk in their sleep. However, that isn’t the only thing that they do. In addition to impromptu midnight strolls, there are a few other things that sleepwalkers may do. These include screaming or talking in their sleep, sitting up and repeating a motion such as rubbing their eyes and doing strange things like playing a game of cards with empty air.
It is also not unusual for sleepwalkers to amble into the kitchen and have a midnight feast. Perhaps the saddest thing is that sleepwalkers never remember their nighttime expeditions. That special ice cream you had in your fridge? Well now it’s gone and they don’t have any memory of ever tasting it.
This aspect of sleepwalking connects closely to sleep eating. A separate disorder that leads people to snack through the night as they sleep. A potentially dangerous aspect of this is the possibility of eating or drinking something harmful, for example, cleaning products. The more complex actions a sleepwalker starts to perform, the more you need to know how to keep a sleepwalker safe.
How To Keep a Sleepwalker Safe
Because they are oblivious to their actions, there is the possibility of sleepwalkers accidentally injuring themselves or others. For that reason, it is vital to set up some safety precautions if you or a family member sleepwalks.
1. Baby-proof The House
Toddlers don’t really know what they are doing all the time, and the same goes for sleepwalkers. Keeping dangerous items out of reach is the first priority. Clear counters of any sharp objects such as scissors. Make it as hard as possible to access them by putting them deep inside cupboards or drawers. Applying some of the principles used to keep toddlers safe can also help keep a sleepwalker safe.
2. Set Up an Alarm
Something as simple as a bell on their bedroom door can help keep a sleepwalker safe. While it may not wake the person who is sleepwalking, it will likely wake someone who can get them back to bed.
3. Initiate Lockdown
Anything preventing sleepwalkers from getting outside is a good idea. So, keep all doors and windows locked and bolted.
4. Do Some Decluttering
Toys, shoes and stray items scattered on the floor can be a tripping hazard for sleepwalkers. Removing clutter from the floors will prevent any accidental falls.
5. Hide The Keys
If you suspect that you or your resident sleepwalker might go off on an adventure in their car, hide the keys. Keep them in a secret spot so that they can’t find them.
A few more things are needed to keep a sleepwalker safe and secure if they are part of the younger demographic. First off, the bunk bed should go. There is a higher likelihood of them falling and getting hurt if they sleep in a bunk bed. Next, if they sleep upstairs, install a baby gate. This will keep your little one from tripping down the stairs.
Finally, the most important thing to remember: Don’t wake a sleepwalker! It may be tempting, but trying to wake them can cause them to lash out from fright. This can lead to someone getting injured. When you are just trying to keep a sleepwalker safe, this is not an outcome you want.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t just let them continue on their merry way. Rather, gently guide them back to their bed while repeating something comforting. For example, you can reassure them that they are safe and you are just taking them back to bed. If they refuse to move, stay with them until they go back to bed voluntarily. This way you can keep them safe until they are in bed again.
If you cannot avoid the need to wake them up, don’t just do it any old way. You may get hit when they wake up if you shake or touch them. Instead, stand back and make a loud noise. Banging a pot or blowing a whistle will probably startle them enough to make them wake up, and you will be safely out of reach.
Sleepwalking can range from hilariously funny to downright scary. So, keep these ways to keep a sleepwalker safe until you can find and resolve the root cause.