Sleepwalking is a common disorder in children. In fact, up to 30% of children will sleepwalk at one time or another. It is abnormal if it is very frequent. It usually disappears at about the time of puberty. However, it may either persist or begin in about 2% of adults.
In the case of either adults or children with frequent episodes it may need to be investigated. Sleepwalking can be precipitated by stress, lack of sleep, fever, caffeine, or sleep disorders that fragment sleep.
In a recent study from Stanford University a majority of frequent sleepwalkers had underlying sleep disorders such as Sleep Apnea, Restless Legs Syndrome, or leg movements during sleep that interrupt sleep. As a result fragmented sleep leads to sleepwalking.
There are several treatments available. Safety proofing the bedroom environment, motion alarms and window locks can be very effective in children. There are medications that can suppress sleepwalking as well. However, if an underlying sleep disorder is the cause in an adult or child, it needs to be diagnosed and treated. An overnight sleep study can be particularly useful in these patients. In many cases treating the underlying sleep disorder eliminates the sleepwalking.