Sleepwalking in children could be genetic

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Kids are more likely to sleepwalk if their parents have had the same issue growing up, a new study suggests. If you, your spouse or both of you have a history of sleepwalking, your child will be more prone to the habit.

The study analysed sleep data from a group of 1,940 children from Quebec, Canada. Data such as sleep terrors and sleepwalking were evaluated by questionnaires and parents were also asked about their sleepwalking habits.

Sleepwalking and sleep terrors are both common childhood sleep disorders that often (but not always) fade as children grow older.

The study, which appeared online in the journal JAMA Paediatrics, found that more than 60% of the kids reviewed developed sleepwalking if both their parents had been sleepwalkers. So children were seven times more likely to sleepwalk if both their parents had a history of it. Meanwhile, kids with one parent with a history of sleepwalking had three times the odds of becoming a sleepwalker as opposed to children whose parents did not sleepwalk.

“These findings point to a strong genetic influence on sleepwalking and, to a lesser degree, sleep terrors,” said Jacques Montplaisir from the Hopital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal.

With regards to sleep terrors, which often involve a scream, fear and a prolonged period of inconsolability, researchers found an overall childhood prevalence of 56.2% between ages 1.5 to 13 years. While there was a higher occurrence of these at 1.5 years (34.4%), it decreased to 5.3% at age 13.

“This effect may occur through polymorphisms in the genes involved in slow-wave sleep generation or sleep depth,” Montplaisir noted.

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