New study suggests sleepwalking may be genetic – The Globe and Mail
Posted: May 6, 2015 Filed under: CEAMS publications, Media coverage
New study suggests sleepwalking may be genetic – The Globe and Mail.
If you have a history of sleepwalking, chances are your children will be somnambulists, too.
A new study from Montreal researchers adds support to the growing belief that behaviours such as sleepwalking and sleep terrors run in families. The findings were published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
The offspring of parents who are or were sleepwalkers are between three and seven times more likely to sleepwalk than other children, report the researchers, from the Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine at Sacré-Coeur Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Montreal.
The likelihood rises if both parents have a history of sleepwalking. Researchers found that in families with two parents who are or were sleepwalkers, nearly two-thirds of the children experienced sleepwalking incidences.
Among the children studied, about 47 per cent of the sleepwalkers had one parent with a history of sleepwalking. Nearly 23 per cent of the children who were sleepwalkers had parents with no history of somnambulism.
“Not all sleepwalking is problematic,” noted first author Dominique Petit, a research assistant at the centre. “Very often you don’t need to do anything with sleepwalking. (But) in some rare cases, there’s potential for injury.”
Sleepwalkers can navigate around their households with relative ease – for instance, they can climb or descend stairs. They may even perform tasks such as preparing and eating a snack. They do not remember the incident later.
Petit said sleepwalkers can get hurt on occasion. She noted there have been reports of children dying of hypothermia after leaving their homes in winter and falling back into a deeper sleep in the snow. Petit said it’s recommended that parents consider an alarm for doors if children who sleepwalk tend to leave the house.
Sleepwalking is more common among children than adults. The research was designed to estimate how common sleep terrors and sleepwalking are among children, to look for links between the two behaviours and to see if they ran in families. The researchers followed 1,940 children in Quebec from the ages of 1 1/2 or 2 1//2 to 13. Parents were asked annually whether their children experienced sleep terrors and sleepwalking, and whether they had a history of sleepwalking.
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