Study identifies genetic risk for childhood sleepwalking
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as many as 17% of children sleepwalk. Now, a new study suggests children are much more likely to do so if their parents have a history of sleepwalking, indicating there may be a genetic element to the disorder.
Children whose parents both had a history of sleepwalking were seven times more likely to sleepwalk themselves.
Dr. Jacques Montplaisir, of the Hopital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal in Canada, and colleagues also found a smaller association between parental history of sleepwalking and increased risk of sleep terrors among offspring.
The researchers publish their findings in the journalJAMA Pediatrics.
Sleepwalking is most common in childhood, particularly between the ages of 3 and 7 years, while sleep terrors - episodes of screaming, flailing and intense fear during sleep - often occur between the ages of 4 and 12 years.
While both disorders - known as parasomnias - often wane during adolescence, they can sometimes persist or appear in adulthood, particularly sleepwalking. It is estimated that around 4% of adults in the US sleepwalk.
For their study, Dr. Montplaisir and colleagues set out to assess the prevalence of sleepwalking and night terrors in childhood, to determine whether there is any link between the two conditions later in childhood, and to establish whether a parental history of sleepwalking influences a child's risk of sleepwalking or sleep terrors.
The team analyzed sleep data from 1,940 children who were a part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. The children were born in 1997 and 1998 and studied between 1999 and 2011.