Alarm for parents of a sleepwalker?
August 7, 2014 3:01 PM   Subscribe

My 10 year old sometimes sleepwalks as a side effect of his medication. We recently moved and last night he sleepwalked out of the apartment into the hallway. Fortunately, my husband was awake and was able to guide our kid back to bed. I'm looking for a recommendation for an alarm that I could set up to sound if the front door opens after a certain hour, but that preferably won't wake up all my neighbors.
posted by Nimmie Amee to Grab Bag (16 answers total)
Could you get a lock added to the door that blocks opening from either inside or outside and only you have a key to? I've seen doors that have that so I know it's possible.
posted by xarnop at 3:07 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Could you get a lock added to the door that blocks opening from either inside or outside and only you have a key to? I've seen doors that have that so I know it's possible.

This is an incredibly dangerous idea. Take it from someone who as a child was once trapped in a bathroom for hours until I decided to climb out a window and fall two stories the ground because I thought I was going to die there. Someday somebody will be trapped by this lock. Count on it.
posted by srboisvert at 3:16 PM on August 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Could you get a chain for the front door, and position it high enough that he can't reach it? Or is he capable of multi-step actions while sleepwalking (e.g., get a chair, move to door, climb chair, unlatch chain, move chair, open door)?
posted by devinemissk at 3:21 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd change your front door lock to be opened and locked only by a key. That way, you can "lock in" for the evening from the inside.
posted by heathrowga at 3:22 PM on August 7, 2014

I think you're on the right track with the alarm, but does it definitely, definitely have to be for the exterior door? My thoughts were:

Could you get an inexpensive motion detector for his bedroom door, instead of the exterior door?

You can also get bed alarms that let you know if he gets up in the night.

For people with dementia who wander, it's sometimes effective to put a slide or hook and eye lock at the very bottom or very top of a door in addition to the lock near the doorknob; it's a noninvasive way to disrupt the ways doors are usually locked, and many people with dementia don't look up or down for the lock, just at the doorknob. I wonder if something like that would work for your son?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:22 PM on August 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

Nursing homes use bed alarms for most patients who at risk of suffering a fall. They're cheap and effective with the added bonus of not being considered a restraint.
posted by Triumphant Muzak at 3:26 PM on August 7, 2014

You can use an x10 motion detector and an x10 lamp module. Set both to the same letter/number code and the lamp will come on whenever the motion detector fires. You can then just have a small lamp in your bedroom come on. Get one of those pixar-looking desk lamps and point it at your head.
posted by jeffamaphone at 3:34 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Geesh - I was just going to suggest hanging a string of bells from the doorknob so that when the door opens it makes noise! But we're both light-ish sleepers, so YMMV.

Ours is a one-yard piece of red rope with 4-5 old fashioned very nice sounding small copper(?) bells, though I imagine a string of jingle bells would work just as well. It would certainly wake us up, but is non-annoying and isn't loud enough to bother any neighbours (we live in an apartment too). You could hang it from the doorknob on his (closed) bedroom door and/or the front door. (Or put two hooks on either side of the front door and string across, so he knocks it if he tries to leave.)

On preview: Jeffamaphone's lamp idea sounds good too.

Does he go to the bathroom often at night? I assume you don't want to be woken up for that.

I worry that the "lock-in" and locks-he-can't-reach ideas would create a fire safety hazard if anything ever went wrong... (esp in an emergency if you're not thinking straight and doubly so if you're a kid in an emergency not thinking straight). I now know several people who've had significant fires so....
posted by jrobin276 at 3:36 PM on August 7, 2014

Yeah, what Snarl Furillo said: get a motion detector for his bedroom door --- it'll be less obtrusive to the neighbors, plus it'll give you more lead time to turn the kid around.

(ps: I too was a sleepwalker at that age: I'm told I'd wake people up to have long conversations or to insist my siblings play with me, all of which annoyed the heck out of them. Grew out of it not long after.)
posted by easily confused at 3:36 PM on August 7, 2014

I wouldn't use an interior key lock because it might slow down an emergency exit. Could you put some sort of manual lock (even a hook and eye) higher than he can reach?
posted by zibra at 3:41 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think something like this motion detector would suffice, and the remotes mean you can turn it on and off from your room (like if you need to go in the living room after bedtime).
posted by Lyn Never at 4:00 PM on August 7, 2014

One classic way that families with special needs kids do this cheaply is to install a chain/slider lock on the inside of the front door up very, very high (ie: at the very top of the door, where an adult can reach but a child cannot).
posted by anastasiav at 4:52 PM on August 7, 2014

Doors that require a key to exit are dangerous and illegal in some places. In the event of a fire, trying to find a key could be deadly.
posted by shoesietart at 4:52 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yikes definitely don't re-key anything. That's incredibly dangerous.

A bell that jingles when the door opens would be my first suggestion. You could also go with one of those baby monitors that beeps when it detects movement.
posted by zug at 5:19 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

A double-cylinder lock, which some folks suggested above, is (a) an extensive enough modification to your apartment that your landlords will probably Not Be Happy (rekeying by the renter is generally not cool), and (b) at the very least a hazard to the safety of the occupants, and quite possibly a fire code violation (in many municipalities, at least one, and possibly every, door to a dwelling must be openable from the inside without a key).
posted by jackbishop at 7:41 PM on August 7, 2014

OP here, I am not interested in additional locks, but I appreciate the other alarm suggestions. The motion detector in his area of our apartment looks like it's what I'm looking for.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 8:37 PM on August 7, 2014

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