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If you must wake a sleepwalker, here’s how to do it safely

Somewhere between one and 15 percent of people are sleepwalkers, and children are more commonly affected than adults. If you’re one of them, check on this article on how to prevent it from happening. If, however, you live with someone who sleepwalks, you might (appropriately!) be concerned about the person’s safety, so you may wonder what you should do if you catch the person in the act.

You may have heard that it’s not safe to wake someone who is actively sleepwalking, but that’s not always the case. Although it’s important to recognize that waking someone who is actively sleepwalking can be difficult and dangerous—sleepwalkers have even been known to attack those who try to wake them—sometimes it’s essential to do so. Sleepwalkers who are allowed to meander around are likely to hurt themselves, since they aren’t in control of their actions, and they could even hop in a car and hurt both themselves and others.

Waking a sleepwalker properly can help keep both you and the sleepwalker safe. The best trick is to help the sleepwalker return safely to his or her bed without waking him or her, if possible. Taking care not to touch the sleepwalker too much, gently turn him or her in the direction of her bed, and walk near the person until he or she gets back into bed.

If returning a sleepwalker safely back to bed doesn’t work, use loud, sharp noises (from a safe distance) to wake up the person instead. This will most likely startle the sleepwalker, but it’s better than shaking the person in close range, because that might trigger the sleepwalker to feel attacked and lash out and hurt you.

People who wake up from sleepwalking are often confused, disoriented, and scared, so be thoughtful once the person actually does wake. Explain to the person: “You’ve been sleepwalking.”