We all know the meaning of sleepwalking: the development of movement activity during your sleep. To us, it might sound like a story from one of those cartoons where the protagonist, dressed in long pyjamas and a sleeping cap, walks around the whole house with his arms extended forward while he sleeps. This image, of course, is incorrect: a sleepwalker need not walk. He can stand up or sit down; nor is he wandering around with his eyes shut: he might seem startled or somewhat lost (quite similar to what we look like, in fact, when we are tired but we can't lay down because we are in class or at work).

Experts reckon that up to 15% of children between the age of 5 and 12 years old might experience instances of sleepwalking, most often after they have suffered some sort of illness, a fever, lack of sleep or what they are under stress. This occasional sleepwalking is not harmful, and usually subsides with time, although it can be relatively uncomfortable.

Ultimately, the cause of this disease is unknown, although it is suspected that it might be linked to an alteration of the nervous system due to the immaturity of the children (therefore stress or lack of sleep would become crucial factors). Given that there is no known immediate cure to the phenomenon, most doctors recommend a treatment called "programmed awakening", which consists in the interruption of the sleep cycle. Should the child require this treatment, the doctor will be the one designing the routine. Fortunately, medication is not usually required.

In less intensive cases, parents can help by making it easier or more comfortable for the child to fall asleep. It is fundamental to condition an area suitable for rest with relaxing music and soft light, or to make certain that the child's bedroom is in an area sheltered from the noise coming from the road or from adjoining rooms.

Clearing rooms and hallways is also helpful. We mustn't forget that a great number of the injuries suffered by sleepwalkers comes from knocks and bangs with scattered items, as well as sudden awakenings that come from this sort of accidents. Therefore it is often said that sleepwalkers should never be forced into waking: it is always best to patiently guide them back to their beds.

A few simple steps, together with the help of a specialist can, as you see, make it easier for both parents and children to cope with this condition.

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