Childhood Sleepwalking and Sleep Terrors: A Longitudinal Study of Prevalence and Familial Aggregation | Genetics and Genomics | JAMA Pediatrics | JAMA Network
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Original Investigation
July 2015

Childhood Sleepwalking and Sleep Terrors: A Longitudinal Study of Prevalence and Familial Aggregation

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine, Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 3Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 4Department of Neurosciences, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 5Service of Neurology, Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 6Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 7School of Psychoeducation, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 8Research Unit on Children’s Psychosocial Maladjustment, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 9Department of Pediatrics, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 10School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  • 11Research Unit on Children’s Psychosocial Maladjustment, Laval University, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  • 12Institute of Genetic, Neurobiological, and Social Foundations of Child Development, Tomsk State University, Tomsk, Tomsk Oblast, Russian Federation
JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169(7):653-658. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.127

Importance  Childhood sleepwalking and sleep terrors are 2 parasomnias with a risk of serious injury for which familial aggregation has been shown.

Objectives  To assess the prevalence of sleepwalking and sleep terrors during childhood; to investigate the link between early sleep terrors and sleepwalking later in childhood; and to evaluate the degree of association between parental history of sleepwalking and presence of somnambulism and sleep terrors in children.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Sleep data from a large prospective longitudinal cohort (the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development) of 1940 children born in 1997 and 1998 in the province were studied from March 1999 to March 2011.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Prevalence of sleep terrors and sleepwalking was assessed yearly from ages 11/2 and 21/2 years, respectively, to age 13 years through a questionnaire completed by the mother. Parental history of sleepwalking was also queried.

Results  The peak of prevalence was observed at 11/2 years for sleep terrors (34.4% of children; 95% CI, 32.3%-36.5%) and at age 10 years for sleepwalking (13.4%; 95% CI, 11.3%-15.5%). As many as one-third of the children who had early childhood sleep terrors developed sleepwalking later in childhood. The prevalence of childhood sleepwalking increases with the degree of parental history of sleepwalking: 22.5% (95% CI, 19.2%-25.8%) for children without a parental history of sleepwalking, 47.4% (95% CI, 38.9%-55.9%) for children who had 1 parent with a history of sleepwalking, and 61.5% (95% CI, 42.8%-80.2%) for children whose mother and father had a history of sleepwalking. Moreover, parental history of sleepwalking predicted the incidence of sleep terrors in children as well as the persistent nature of sleep terrors.

Conclusions and Relevance  These findings substantiate the strong familial aggregation for the 2 parasomnias and lend support to the notion that sleepwalking and sleep terrors represent 2 manifestations of the same underlying pathophysiological entity.