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Sleep Hypn. 2017; 19(3): 61-69

Childhood Sleepwalking and Its Relationship to Daytime and Sleep Related Behaviors

Helen M Stallman, Mark J Kohler, Sarah N Biggs, Kurt Lushington, Declan Kennedy.


Objective: Sleepwalking is common in children, however, the relationship between sleepwalking, bedtime routine and daytime problems is poorly understood. We assessed the prevalence of parent reported sleepwalking in school children, and its relationship with broader sleep and daytime difficulties.

Methods: Parents of 1814 children aged 5 to 10 years reported on child sleepwalking, other sleep behavior, emotional and daytime behavioral functioning.

Results: Parents reported that 10.5% of children had sleepwalked in the previous week. There were no sex differences in sleepwalking prevalence, however middle children were reported to sleepwalk more than other children. Sleepwalking was associated with more problems of bedtime routine, bedtime anxiety, and daytime tiredness, as well as more sleep terrors, sleep talking, disordered sleep breathing symptoms, restless sleep and bruxism; however, these correlations were very small. Sleepwalkers also had significantly more emotional problems, conduct problems, and hyperactivity. Post hoc analyses showed that after controlling for sleep disordered breathing and sleep terrors, sleepwalking no longer contributed to the prediction of emotional, conduct, or hyperactivity problems, or morning tiredness. Results for the relationship between sleep instability and sleepwalking were mixed.

Conclusions: Frequent sleepwalking is common in children and is associated with a range of sleep and behavior problems. However, behavioral and emotional problems associated with sleepwalking are accounted for by comorbid sleep disorders. Risk for other sleep related problems and impact on daytime functioning in children who sleepwalk warrant assessment and treatment. Similarly, children presenting with behavioral concerns should be assessed for sleep problems.

Key words: Sleepwalking, somnambulism, prevalence, behavior, sleep disorders, parasomnia

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