Parents may pass on sleepwalking to their kids

According to research children are seven times more likely to sleepwalk if both their parents have a history of taking nocturnal strolls.

Sleep terrors in early childhood may lead to sleepwalking later | Image: Pixabay

A study of nearly 2,000 children in the Canadian province of Quebec found more than 60 per cent developed sleepwalking when both their parents were sleepwalkers.

It also found youngsters with one parent with the condition were three times more likely to get out of bed, compared to children whose parents didn't.

This figure rose to seven among those whose had two parents who did.

Researchers found that youngsters who had sleep terrors (episodes of screaming and fear while falling asleep) were also more likely to develop sleepwalking, compared to those who did not have them.

Doctor Jacques Montplaisir, of the Hospital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal, was behind the study.

He said: "These findings point to a strong genetic influence on sleepwalking and, to a lesser degree, sleep terrors.

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."

His team analysed sleep data from a group of 1,940 children born in the province in 1997 and 1998 and studied in 1999 to 2011.

It also found more than 80 per cent of those who reported sleepwalking as adults said they have done it for more than five years, with a third having a family history of the condition.

The condition is a common childhood sleep disorder that usually disappears during adolescence.

It is when a person walks or carries out complex activities while not fully awake and usually occurs during a period of deep sleep.

Most children are said to grow out of it by the time they reach puberty, but it can persist into adulthood.

Sleepwalking can be anything from sitting up in bed, to getting up and taking a few steps before going back to sleep.

In extreme cases it can even lead to leaving the house.

For parents who do have a history, it is a good idea to sleepwalk-proof the house.

Simple steps such as removing sharp or breakable objects, placing safety gates on stairs and not allowing sleepwalking children go to bed on the top bunk will help to prevent accidents throughout the night.

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