Dr. Henry Paul, MD

Psychiatrist, Author and Educator


March 6th, 2014

In the last blog, we discussed nightmares.  Now, we are going to look at sleepwalking.  This parasomnia is characterized by a child getting up and walking around. Eyes are open, but responsiveness is either absent or inappropriate. Walking around can vary from quiet walking to agitated running. There is usually a glassy dazed stare. Sometimes the child can go to the bathroom or engage in other activities.  Rarely there is violence. There is amnesia for the event. After the episode, the child can be found sleeping somewhere in the house.

There appears to be a genetic contribution to causation. Additionally, sleep deprivation, a chaotic environment, stress, some sleeping pills, and antipsychotic drugs, stimulants, or antihistamines might cause these episodes. It is also associated with PTSD, panic disorder and possibly dissociative identity disorder. Some medical conditions including gastroesophageal reflux, fever, asthma, and obstructive sleep apnea are present.

As in other parasomnias, treatment becomes necessary if there is resultant family disturbance or increased frequency.  Since children can hurt themselves by accidents such as falling down stairs or getting outside the house, safety measures have to be taken such as trying to make the first floor of a house the sleeping  location, locking doors and windows, clearing obstructions, putting heavy drapes over glass windows, and possibly setting an alarm which will sound if the child gets out of bed.  Treatment consists of clearing up any associated medical conditions and rarely the use of medication including the short term benzodiapine Klonopin or Trazadone.

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.


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