Night Terrors in Children May Be Inherited

Night terrors in children can be stressful on parentsNight terrors in children can be stressful on parents

Have your children ever woken up from a night terror? You know the symptoms: bolting up out of bed with their eyes wide open, almost as in terror, with a look of fear on their face and sometimes letting out a horrifying scream.

A new study at the Sleep Disorders Center at Montreal's Sacre-Coeur Hospital says that night terrors may be inherited. Night terrors are most common among children ages 2 to 6 years old.

Research was conducted on 390 sets of twins and they found that identical twins were more likely to experience night terrors than fraternal twins. The mothers of the twins answered a questionnaire twice; once when the babies were 18 months old and another when they were 30 months old. Other factors were also taken into consideration, such as family history, living conditions and environmental factors.

They found that at 18 months, genetics were responsible for 43.7 percent of night terrors, while environment accounted for 56.3 percent of the influence. At 30 months it was lowered, with 41.5 percent genetics and 58.5 percent environment. The study showed that half of the children experiencing night terrors at 18 months no longer had them at 30 months.

“Our results show that there is a substantial effect of genetics factors in sleep terrors,” wrote the authors on the team. “To date no specific genes have been identified for sleep terrors. Additional studies are needed.”

What’s the difference between a night terror and a nightmare? A night terror usually occurs about two hours after a child falls asleep. Often awakening screaming and terrified, they are usually inconsolable and then fall asleep after a short time, with no memory of what had happened. A nightmare usually happens in the early morning and the details of the nightmare are often remembered.

This study was published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics.


Source: Reuters 

Dec 1, 2008
by Beth Graddon-Hodgson
Beth Graddon-Hodgson's picture

 I suffered terrible night

 I suffered terrible night terrors as a child, which usually had me almost sleep walking to consolation. My family affectionately calls them "the days when I was posessed"


Beth Hodgson
Innovative Business Writer