What Happens if You Wake Up a Sleepwalker

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: July 17, 2024
What Happens if You Wake Up a Sleepwalker

Many myths and beliefs surround sleepwalkers, and there is disagreement about what to do if you see someone walking and performing mundane tasks while supposedly asleep. People often wonder whether or not they should wake up a sleepwalker and what happens if you do. There are many popular myths that if you wake a sleepwalker up, they may have a heart attack or go into a coma due to the traumatic experience of waking up. While this is not entirely true, there is no doubt that it is not pleasant for the sleepwalker to be awakened abruptly.

In this oneHOWTO article, we explain what sleepwalking is and what happens when you wake up a sleepwalker.

You may also be interested in: Is Too Much Sleep Bad for You?
  1. What is sleepwalking
  2. What happens if you wake up a sleepwalker
  3. How to deal with a sleepwalker

What is sleepwalking

Experts classify sleepwalking as a form of parasomnia, a group of disorders characterized by uncontrolled behaviors during sleep. Researchers at Stanford College (USA) have found that sleepwalking is a more common disorder than previously thought. The study found that sleepwalking affects more than one million people in the United States alone. Sleepwalking occurs primarily in children between the ages of 4 and 8 or 10.

Sleepwalking can also occur in adults and older people, and the causes can also be varied and may include fatigue, stress and anxiety, excessive alcohol consumption, breathing disorders, or cognitive impairment.

The symptoms of sleepwalking are distinct:

  • The person is sleeping but acts as if they are awake.
  • They get up and sit up in bed.
  • They leave the bedroom and wander around the house, in some cases they can also leave the house.
  • They usually speak or mumble incoherent or meaningless phrases.
  • They are able to perform more or less complex actions, from going to the bathroom, getting dressed or eating.

Even when they are not fully awake, sleepwalkers tend to keep their eyes open. However, their "lost" gaze indicates that they are not fully awake. Often, they are able to move around familiar objects without difficulty. It usually occurs during a period of deep sleep. It usually peaks early in the night, a few hours after the person falls asleep. Most of the time the episode last no more than ten minutes.

What happens if you wake up a sleepwalker

First of all, it is important to keep in mind that there is no reason to be afraid of a sleepwalker, even though the situation may be strange, because they are neither dangerous nor aggressive.

Sleepwalkers may need to be awakened depending on the circumstances. In most cases, this is not necessary and it is sufficient if you gently return the sleepwalker to their bed. Often, if you leave them alone, they will often go back to sleep by themselves. In other cases, it may be necessary to wake them up for their safety. Perhaps they are about to fall down a flight of stairs, trip over a piece of furniture, are manipulating objects in the kitchen, or they are walking toward the door with the intention of leaving the house.

If you find yourself in the situation of having to wake a sleepwalker, proceed gently and reassure them as you gently guide them back to bed. Avoid yelling or shaking because you will startle the sleepwalker. Expect the sleepwalker to be confused and disoriented for a few minutes after being awakened. In exceptional cases, a sleepwalker may be aggressive, but usually this is a result of his or her own confusion. It is also very likely that when the sleepwalker wakes up in the morning, he or she will not remember anything that happened the night before. If this is the case, do not overreact so as not to frighten the sleepwalker or make them feel ashamed or guilty.

In order to improve the quality of your sleep, don't miss this article on is too much sleep bad for you?

What Happens if You Wake Up a Sleepwalker - What happens if you wake up a sleepwalker

How to deal with a sleepwalker

Sleepwalking, especially in children, is a temporary sleep disorder whose episodes gradually subside as the child grows. If these episodes recur too often, you should consult sleep physicians, pediatricians, neurologists, and psychologists. Sleepwalking may be a sign of depression or breathing problems such as sleep apnea.

If you live with a sleepwalker, make sure the room where they sleep and your home in general is as safe as possible.To prevent sleepwalkers from injuring themselves in their sleep, you should follow these safety measures:

  • Prevent sleepwalking children from sleeping in a bunk.
  • Close closets where dangerous substances might be found, such as cleaning products.
  • Do not leave house keys by the door.
  • Install protective railings on stairs.

If your child sleepwalks at the same time every night, changing the sleep cycle may prevent sleepwalking. Try gently waking your child for a short time 15 to 30 minutes before the sleepwalking usually occurs.It is important that you inform anyone who watches your child at night, such as babysitters, relatives, or friends, that your child may be sleepwalking and what they should do if he or she is sleepwalking.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to What Happens if You Wake Up a Sleepwalker, we recommend you visit our Mental health category.

  1. American Academy of Neurology Journals. Recovered from:
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What Happens if You Wake Up a Sleepwalker