A new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics suggests you can now add sleepwalking on the list of inconvenient things that are inheritable and label sleep terrors a fairly solid sign your little one will start walking in their sleep.
Researchers recently finished conducting a 12 year study on youngsters in the Canadian province of Quebec and concluded that a majority of over 60% of participant (61.5% to be exact) developed somnambulism if both their parents suffered from the disorder.
The scientists studied sleep data for 1,940 kids with a known history of sleepwalking and sleep terrors (suddenly waking up screaming or crying), as well as the data of their parents’ sleepwalking patterns. They found that children were 3 times more likely to sleepwalk if they had one parent who sleepwalked, and 7 times more likely to sleepwalk if both of their parents used to be sleepwalkers.
The overall prevalence of sleepwalking for children between the ages of 2.5 and 13 years old was 29.1%, while the overall prevalence of sleepwalking for children between the ages of 1.5 and 13 years old was 56.2%.
The scientists also discovered that children with sleep terrors were much more likely to develop sleepwalking than the ones without sleep terrors. They agree that “These findings point to a strong genetic influence on sleepwalking and, to a lesser degree, sleep terrors”.
Dr Montplaisir, author of the study, does offer an explanation, theorizing that “This effect may occur through polymorphisms in the genes involved in slow-wave sleep generation or sleep depth. Parents who have been sleepwalkers in the past, particularly in cases where both parents have been sleepwalkers, can expect their children to sleepwalk and thus should prepare adequately”.
Children who experienced sleep terrors in the first 3 and a half years of life are more likely to develop sleepwalking at age 5 or older (34%) than children who didn’t experience sleep terrors that early on (21.7%).
Hansa Bhargava, a pediatrician with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, things the research will help parents better understand their offsprings, stating that “That’s interesting because it can help parents know that ‘Hey, if my little one has sleep terrors, and several of them, then perhaps he or she might be more at risk for sleepwalking when they are between the age of 10 and 13”.
The overall prevalence of sleepwalking for children without a parental history of sleepwalking was 22.5%, the overall prevalence of sleepwalking for children with one parent with a history of sleepwalking was 47.4%, and the overall prevalence of sleepwalking for children with both parents with a history of sleepwalking was 61.5%.
Bhargava explained that “It’s definitely genetic. Prevention is really the cure in these situations. You want to make sure the child is not overtired, stressed out, over-scheduled. And have a nice calming ritual at bedtime so the child can actually calm himself down before going to sleep”.
Sleepwalking and sleep terrors are the common childhood sleep disorder and specialists say that they share many of the same characteristics, arising mainly from slow-wave sleep.
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