EXPERT ADVICE: Why is my child talking and walking in his sleep?

If your child is either talking or walking their sleep, read on to find out what action you can take.

Your little one’s been asleep for a while before you make a final check on her. Then, you hear it. She seems to be talking and mumbling something in her sleep.

Or maybe, you found her wandering around the living room in the middle of the night ― her eyes open, yet, she’s still asleep and unaware of her actions. Should you be panicking?

Both sleeptalking and sleepwalking are behaviours known as parasomnias ― disorders, including nightmares and night terrors, that disrupt sleep. Sleeptalking and sleepwalking are common among children, who tend to outgrow it by the time they reach their teens.

However, you don’t need to worry too much. Under normal circumstances, both are not considered medical problems, explains Dr Mahesh Babu Ramamurthy, Head & Senior Consultant, Division of Paediatric Pulmonary and Sleep, National University Hospital.

Dr Mahesh offers more details on these conditions:

Dr Mahesh, what causes a child to sleep talk?  
The causes of sleep talking are not very clear. Sleeptalking is very common in childhood and can occur in otherwise normal children. It is known to be associated in children with other triggers like Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), stress and decreased sleep.

Should parents be worried?

No, sleeptalking on its own is not harmful.

How common is this condition among young children?

The incidence varies. Some studies have shown that up to 80 per cent of children will experience some sleeptalking at some time or another during their childhood.

“Up to 80 per cent of children will experience some sleeptalking at some time or another during their childhood.”

What are the signs and symptoms of sleeptalking?

Children seem to be sleeping well but they start talking. Most times, these utterances are just mumbling with no clear words, though, at other times, words can be clear and relate to events in real life. Significant outbursts are rare, but occasionally, may be significant enough to disturb others at home. Children do not remember the occurrence of these events in the day. 

When does sleep talking occur?

It usually occurs in the first third of the sleep period.

Is there a time when medical treatment is deemed necessary?

No treatment is usually required for sleep talking. Though, if it is associated with other disorders like OSA ― treatment will be required.

Can you prevent sleeptalking?

No, you can’t prevent sleeptalking.