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Kids more likely to sleepwalk if parents do: study

Updated: 05 05 , 2015 09:17
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WASHINGTON -- Children are more likely to sleepwalk if one or both of their parents have a history of sleepwalking, researchers with a Canadian hospital suggested Monday.

Sleepwalking is a common childhood sleep disorder that usually disappears during adolescence, although it can persist or appear in adulthood.

To assess the prevalence of sleepwalking during childhood, the researchers with the Hopital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal, Quebec, analyzed sleep data on 1,940 children who were born in Quebec in 1997 and 1998. The study was conducted from 1999 to 2011.

Overall, 29.1 percent of children sleepwalked at some point between the ages of two and 13, according to the study published by the researchers in the U.S. journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Sleepwalking was relatively infrequent during the preschool years but increased steadily to 13.4 percent by age 10. Its prevalence then remained at about 13 percent until age 13.

The study showed that children's odds of sleepwalking increased based on the sleepwalking history of their parents.

Children with one parent who was a sleepwalker had three times the odds of becoming a sleepwalker compared with children whose parents did not sleepwalk, and children whose parents both had a history of sleepwalking had seven times the odds of becoming a sleepwalker.

In prevalence terms, 22.5 percent of children without a parental history of sleepwalking developed sleepwalking, while 47. 4 percent of children with one parent who was a sleepwalker developed sleepwalking, and 61.5 percent of children developed sleepwalking when both parents were sleepwalkers.

"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," the researchers wrote in their paper.

About half of children in the study also developed sleep terrors, another early childhood sleep disorder often characterized by a scream, at some point between the ages of one and 13.

And children who had sleep terrors before age four were also more likely to sleepwalk later in childhood, the researchers said.

"These findings point to a strong genetic influence on sleepwalking and, to a lesser degree, sleep terrors," the study concluded. "This effect may occur through polymorphisms in the genes involved in slow-wave sleep generation or sleep depth."

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