Sleep talking and sleepwalking can throw you for a loop if you’re not expecting them.
In sleep talking, kids calmly sit up in bed—eyes open, but glassy—and start speaking in short, incoherent phrases. Your child may stop if you call her, turn to you and mumble some gibberish (some older kids actually say clear phrases like “No, no, go away!”), but won’t look you in the eyes. In fact, she’ll seem to be looking right through you!
While many parents take sleep talking in stride, sleepwalking can be a bit worrisome. There your child is, moving around the room—eyes open—as if looking for something, searching in a closet or toy box…or walking into the hall…even trying to get out of the house!...yet totally in “la-la” land.
Sleepwalking occurs in up to 20% of children and can begin as early as the toddler years (although it’s most common between 8 and 12 years of age). It may go on for months or years.
What to Do If Toddler Sleepwalks
Episodes typically last 5-15 minutes and occur during the first couple of hours of sleep. Sleepwalkers are very hard to wake up and usually just return to bed for a deep, peaceful sleep or end up waking up confused with no recollection of the episode. Thankfully, it’s rare for sleepwalkers to fall and get hurt. Nevertheless, parents have occasionally found their kids on the front lawn trying to get out the gate…eyes open, but totally asleep! So, you’ll want to latch the doors and windows and use a gate or a slippery doorknob cover so your sweetie can’t easily get out—or at least put a bell on her door.
If you catch your tot sleepwalking, calmly steer her back to bed, speaking very little and in a soft voice. Singing often seems to soothe these little zombies more than talking—so when the parasomnia occurs, make your white noise a little louder and sing a familiar lullaby over and over to get her back into bed.
How to Prevent Toddlers from Sleepingwalking
These episodes are hard to stop, but here are a few tricks that might help you reduce them a little. First, avoid giving your child chocolate or other stimulants, including antihistamines, decongestants and caffeine-containing drinks. Second, see if you can extend her sleep (longer naps, earlier bedtimes). Third, if sleep talking or sleepwalking is happening every night, wake your child one hour after she falls asleep. (This may stop the parasomnia by resetting the sleep cycle.)