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Is it Dangerous to Wake up a Sleepwalker?

Niharika Arya Nov 20, 2018
It's a myth that waking up a sleepwalker can lead to shock or a heart attack. Actually, it is not at all dangerous to wake a sleepwalker when you know how to handle the situation. Find simple ways that can help you to wake up a sleepwalker without any harm.
No, it is not dangerous to wake a sleepwalker. But, on the other hand it may not be as simple as it sounds. The age-old belief that waking up a sleepwalker can cause heart attack, shock, heart failure, or even put him/her into a coma is just a myth. Gently waking them up at that moment is not at all dangerous.
Sleepwalking or somnambulism is a sleep disorder which is quite common among children between the ages of 5 to 12. But this doesn't mean it is not observed in adults. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleepwalking is prevalent in about 1 to 15% of the general population. This behavior can be hereditary.
It is usually observed during the NREM (non-rapid eye movement) phase of sleep. Stress, sleep apnea, insomnia, medication, alcohol, mental disorders, fatigue, anxiety, etc., are some of the causes associated with sleepwalking.

How Dangerous is it to Wake Up a Sleepwalker?

Sleepwalking takes place during NREM sleep period. There are 4 stages. It is observed in the 3rd and 4th stage (slow wave sleep periods) and occurs 2 to 3 hours after falling asleep.
Studies have shown that during that phase some parts of the brain are awake and some are sound asleep. Which means that the brain is active but not active enough to wake you up from your sleep. Sleepwalkers roam around the house with their eyes open but are not aware of what they are doing. They usually have no memory of what they did during this period.
You never know what that person might be dreaming at this moment. In his dream, he might be happy about his promotion or sad about any death, or even scared about someone attacking him. So, when you wake him suddenly, he might attack you thinking the dream to be reality or might even get scared or confused.
Hence, it is very important to awaken a sleepwalker in an unhurried and calm way which will help him to grasp the situation and react likewise. People may perform different activities while they are sleepwalking. These may include getting up from the bed, to walking down the stairs, driving a car, muttering, cooking, etc. 
Some of these activities can be dangerous and the person may harm himself. So, in order to avoid such accidents you need to be careful while waking them up.

How to Wake Up a Sleepwalker

✦ Since the person who is sleepwalking may get confused, scared or aggressive, just wake him/her gently and guide him/her to their bed and put them back to sleep.

✦ Even gently calling their name can work in some cases. Otherwise, just hold their elbow and take them back to bed. Make sure they go back to bed properly.
✦ As sleepwalking is usually observed after one to two hours of sleep, you can keep a check on the sleepwalker and can gently instruct him/her to return to bed. Sleepwalkers are known to follow suggestions and instructions if given immediately after he/she starts sleepwalking.


Our subconscious mind knows every single part of our house and its arrangement. So even if we are asleep we are aware of which thing is kept at which corner. This is the reason why sleepwalkers can roam freely without bumping into anything. But if you are living with a sleepwalker then it is necessary to follow these suggestions in order to avoid accidents.
✔ Remove obstacles like toys and other things scattered on the ground, as the sleepwalker can trip and hurt himself. Avoid rearranging the furniture frequently.
✔ Do not forget to lock the main door as the person can leave the house. Keep a special check in case of kids. You can also install a door alarm.
✔ If the person is old enough to drive, then hide the keys before sleeping so that the person does not get a chance to drive any vehicle.
✔ Stairs can be a potential hazard for sleepwalkers. Provide railings on both sides to avoid accidents. Try to ensure that the person sleeps on the ground floor to reduce the chances of him/her taking the stairs, thereby risking an accident.

Cure for Sleepwalking

Sleepwalking among children gets cured on its own, without any medical intervention. But in case of adults, therapy and medication may be recommended if the problem gets serious.
Hypnosis can help in reducing sleepwalking. Doctors may also prescribe mood-alteration drugs and sedatives to avoid serious problems like self-harm.
So, the hazard of waking a sleepwalker totally depends upon the instant reaction he/she gives after being awoken and the way you wake him/her up. This can be avoided by following the suggestions given here. In fact not waking up a sleepwalker may be even more dangerous as this will increase the chances of that individual hurting himself.
Do not tease or ridicule the person as this may cause embarrassment and he/she might avoid discussing the problem in future. Sleepwalking is quite common and can be dealt with ease, but if their instances and severity increase, consult a doctor immediately.