Tuesday, 02 Dec, 2008 Science

Children May Inherit Sleep Terrors from Parents


According to Canadian scientists, children may partially inherit night terrors, a sleep disruption that has a far more dramatic presentation than a nightmare.

Together with his colleagues, Dr Bich Hong Nguyen, of the Sleep Disorders Centre at Montreal's Sacre-Coeur Hospital, found a considerable effect of genetic factors in night terrors. He mentioned, however, that no particular genes that have connections with the studied condition have been identified.

Scientists analyzed 390 sets of twins. They discovered that identical twins (monozygotic twins) had more chances of both experiencing sleep terrors than fraternal twins (dizygotic twins). It is worth mentioning that identical twins have almost the same genetic constructions, but fraternal twins don't. Scientists say that sleep terrors may be caused by environmental factors.

The study found that 37 percent of twin sets experienced night terrors at 18 months. After a year the problem disappeared in half of the twin sets, reports ABC News.

Previously scientists discovered that genetic factors may also be the cause of sleepwalking and sleep talking. Another research found that sleep terrors were usually experienced by 19 percent of children aged between 4 and 9.

The recent study explains that night terrors are more abrupt and scary that simple nightmares. The condition often involves sudden arousal and screaming. In their research scientist wrote: "During these events children seem confused and disoriented. Any attempt to awaken them may increase their agitation and prolong their episode."

According to Dr Sarah Blunden, of the Centre for Sleep Research at the University of South Australia, who did not participate in the research, there are several factors that may lead to sleep terrors, including having a fever, full bladder, eating right before sleeping and experiencing stress. She added that in her experience children were more likely to have night terrors if their parents had such condition when they were young. Dr Blunden mentioned that parents should not worry about their children's night terrors.

"They are not awake. Although they may communicate they are not receiving any sensory input. If you hear them, go and check on them and wait until they settle," she said.

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