Hotel Tales: The Sleepwalking Guest


Hotel Tales: The Sleepwalking Guest

We’ve all had that dream. You know the one. You’re out in public, maybe at work or the mall, and you suddenly realize that you have forgotten some integral piece of your wardrobe. For some reason our sleeping brain doesn’t tell us “Hey! You must be dreaming – you always remember pants!” We are doomed to embarrassment until we finally wake and realize none of it ever happened.

But what if it DID happen? Adult sleepwalking (more technically called somnambulism) is on the rise, and many of the contributing factors such as stress, alcohol consumption, and late-night meals, are quite common to travelers.

While a relatively safe sleepwalking situation can lead to a hilarious story later on (for instance, my 9 year old son ran from his room a few nights ago in a frantic search for where his brother had left the “fire boosters”), it is also a cause for serious concern (this same child was caught escaping the house at 2am, also while sleeping.)

Adult sleepwalkers have been found wandering their hotels in the nude, asking for newspapers and even trying to go to work. For the sleepwalker, the potential for embarrassment is frightening enough, but the possibility for injury or even death while sleepwalking is obviously a serious concern for everyone.

So what is a night auditor to do? My short list of suggestions comes from scouring the internet and personal experience, so please feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments below.

  • Begin with check-in. If you have standard guest questions upon check-in, it may be a good idea to give guests an opportunity to tell you they are prone to sleepwalking. Install and maintain extra safety measures for those who need them. Hard to reach locks on windows and doors would be a bonus for both sleepwalkers and parents traveling with tiny escape artists.
  • Put known sleepwalkers on the ground floor of the hotel.
  • Sometimes, sleepwalkers will put a bell on the door in hopes of waking themselves or others if they try to leave the room. Others will block the door with a chair, so perhaps you can ensure that the room holds a chair that can be easily pushed and fits in that space.
  • Most experts say that waking a sleepwalker won’t really harm them, but many people wake up very defensively. I wouldn’t suggest trying to wake a sleeping guest – walking or not! Of course, if steering them gently back to their room isn’t working, there may be no other option.
  • If formal staff training in this area can’t be done, keep a list of sleepwalking tips handy to night personnel.
  • And for the occasional scantily-clad sleepwalker, remember to keep a bathrobe handy behind the front desk – just in case. It will save everyone a lot of embarrassment.

What steps does your hotel take to safeguard nocturnal wanderers?