What to do when kids struggle with sleepwalking & night terrors - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

What to do when kids struggle with sleepwalking & night terrors

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Everyone expects a scary moment or two on Halloween, but for some families - screams and bumps in the night are a regular occurrence. 

More than 15 percent of all children will experience a night terror or a sleepwalking episode, according to doctors. The event, however, is usually scarier for moms and dads than it is for the children because when a night terror takes hold of a child, their eyes are wide open yet they are still sound asleep.

Mack Davis's son, Will, began sleepwalking when he was four years old.  Davis and his wife would often wake up with Will standing over them in their beds.

"We hadn't heard him coming. So we would look up and there he was and we would be... ‘Will? Will?' and he wouldn't respond," said Davis.

Will's sleepwalking became so common, Davis thought they would play it safe and move the butcher block off the kitchen counter to make sure Will didn't inadvertently hurt himself or someone else.

"So, we decided at that point that we needed to move the knives to the top of the refrigerator where it would not be as easy for him to grab a knife and come into the bedroom with a knife."

Will's last sleepwalking episode was probably his most alarming.  The family was on a trip to the Grand Canyon when they woke up after hearing the door to their hotel room close.  That's when they looked out the window and saw will walking around outside.

"My first thought was, what's he doing and how far are we from the edge of the Canyon," said Davis.

Sleepwalking and night terrors are hereditary. The good news is most kids eventually outgrow it by adolescence.  Dr. Wendy Ward, a child psychologist at Arkansas Children's Hospital, knows firsthand how unsettling it can be.  She's seen her own daughter endure a night terror. 

"So, I did what I tell my families to do...stay calm," said Dr. Davis. "I watched over her to make sure she didn't sleepwalk or she didn't do anything where she could intentionally hurt herself and allowed it to pass. It usually takes about 5-10 minutes and in my case, it did."

Parents can turn on the light, but they should not wake their child, according to Dr. Ward. You just have to wait it out.