Here’s what to do if you live with a sleepwalker

If you’ve never experienced sleepwalking, it can be a bit of a mystery. However, for many adults and children around the world, it’s a reality. And it’s just as much a reality for their partners or loved ones. Medically referred to as a parasomnia, sleepwalking is a type of sleep disorder that makes you do things you shouldn’t while sleeping. 

As sleep specialist Shelby Harris, author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia, explained to Well+Good, “[Sleepwalking behavior] can range from simply talking during deep sleep to violently acting out a nightmare during REM sleep.” In some cases, this can be dangerous — as you can imagine, there is a risk that the person sleepwalking could injure themselves or someone else. So, what are you supposed to do if you live with a sleepwalker? Should you really wake them up, or is it only going to make things worse? 

Sleepwalkers should be woken gently and guided back to bed

According to Harriet Hiscock, a consultant pediatrician with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia, there are many misconceptions about waking up a sleepwalker (via ABC Life). “When someone is sleepwalking, they’re stuck between deep sleep and light sleep and if you try to wake them up, they will be very confused and disorientated,” Hiscock explained. “You’re not going to give them a heart attack or kill them, but by trying to wake them up — which is usually quite hard to do — you can make them very agitated,” she warned.

To ensure you don’t unsettle a sleepwalker, “It is important to just quietly, calmly say, ‘It is bedtime now,’ and move the person to bed,” Harris advised Well+Good. To help avoid sleepwalking episodes, ensure the sleepwalker adheres to a strict sleep schedule and make note of any potential triggers. As sleep medicine specialist Alex Dimitriu revealed to Well+Good, you should also, “Put gates at the top of stairs, locks on doors, set alarms, and keep floors uncluttered” to reduce the risk of injury.

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