Just like clockwork around 9pm, the night time adventures kick off in my house. With glazed eyes and an unintelligible mumble, my five-year-old rolls out of bed and drags her feet into her little sister’s bedroom. She pulls books from her sister’s bookcase letting them crash to the floor, plays with her toys, hops into bed with her, or wanders aimlessly around the house.
She’s not being naughty or refusing to sleep. She’s completely oblivious to what she’s doing and has no recollection of her antics the next day. She seems awake, but is still asleep.
There are a number of causes for sleepwalking with family history and sleep issues, such as sleep aponea being among them. According to the Raising Children Network around 7 – 15 % of children experience sleepwalking between the ages of 4 – 12.
My mother tells me it’s Karma that I have a sleepwalking child. I was an active sleepwalker as a kid, filling my parents with worry as I ventured outside in a sleepy daze. We lived along a river when I was young, so my parents had no choice after a few close calls to lock all the doors and windows at night and hide the keys.
Some nights my parents would find me putting on my socks and shoes ready for school or clumsily acting out things that happened during the day. On one particularly lively night, my parents were woken to me sprinting up and down the hallway shoving my hand into a pillow slip. I was robbing a bank in my sleep that night!
While my sleepwalking days are over (apart from the odd night here and there when I’m exceptionally tired), my daughter’s escapades are cranking up a notch. It all started with night terrors when she was four. She would wake up screaming and desperately terrified with tears rolling down her cheeks. The terrors would occur before midnight and it wouldn’t take much to console her. I’d hug and hold her and gently place her back down on the bed.
Before long, she started to be on the move. Instead of sitting up crying in her bed, she would walk into her little sister’s room and let rip with a bloodcurdling scream. This was obviously very distressing for her sister and distressing for us, not knowing what was going on.
We’d take her by the hand and tuck her back into bed where she would sleep soundly the rest of the night, having no recollection of the drama that occurred the night before.
Some nights she would remain in her room walking around, visibly upset as though she was acting out a scene in a play. She would mumble words and occasionally shout out something like ‘bird, don’t, no!’ These days I often find her standing on her bed or creepily standing behind the door like some wide-eyed devil child out of a horror movie. Occasionally, we don’t hear her and find her in the morning, sleeping in a random spot on the floor, usually in her sister’s bedroom.
I’ll never forget the time my husband and I were watching TV, when we heard some movement upstairs. Knowing it would be our five-year-old, I went upstairs to see what she was up to this time. As I ventured near the top of the stairs something caught the corner of my eye. I peered through the railings on the stairs to see our daughter sitting cross legged on the arm of the couch, her face to the wall. As she heard me coming, she turned her head ever so slowly to look straight through me with an emotionless face.
I don’t think I’ve experienced anything freakier in my life. We later joked that we were thankful her whole head didn’t spin around.
Fast approaching the age of six, our daughter’s sleep walking is showing no sign of waning. With her at Prep this year she gets overtired easily and we’ve noticed that her sleepwalking, while less dramatic, has increased.
Just as my parents did, we are safeguarding our house to prevent her from going outside or falling down stairs. We ensure there’s nothing in her bedroom or the lounge room that could cause her danger while on the move.
Unfortunately, sleep walking is one of those things kids and teens need to grow out of, so we most likely will be experiencing these night time adventures for years to come.
Do you have a sleepwalker in your family? What escapades do they get up to?
Read more about kids’ sleep issues:
- How Night Terrors Differ from Nightmares and What You Can Do
- The 5-Stages of No Naps Acceptance
- 3 Steps to Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits for Your Toddler