By Alexandra Sifferlin
May 4, 2015

Kids are more likely to sleepwalk if their parents also did, a new study suggests.

The new research, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, found that over 60% of kids who developed somnambulism had parents who were both sleepwalkers.

The study authors looked at sleep data for 1,940 kids whose history of sleepwalking and sleep terrors (episodes of screaming and fear while falling asleep) as well as their parents sleepwalking were reported through questionnaires.

The data showed that kids were three times more likely to become a sleepwalker if they had one parent who was, and seven times more likely to sleep walk if both parents had a history of it. The prevalence of sleepwalking was 61.5% for kids with dual parent sleepwalking history.

The overall prevalence of sleepwalking in childhood reported among kids ages 2.5 to 13 years old was 29.1%, while the overall prevalence of sleep terrors for kids between age 1.5 to 13 was 56.2%. Kids who had sleep terrors were more likely to also develop sleepwalking, compared to kids who did not have them.

“These findings point to a strong genetic influence on sleepwalking and, to a lesser degree, sleep terrors,” the study authors write. “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.”

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