This Might Be Why You Sleepwalk

Photographed by Ben Ritter.
If you're a notorious sleepwalker, you're probably plenty familiar — and frustrated — with the condition. But, new research suggests the behavior has genetic roots, meaning you can probably blame your parents.

The study, published online this week in JAMA Pediatrics, looked at data for 1,940 children who were all born in 1997 or 1998 in Québec. The data came from questionnaires about the kids' (and their parents') sleep patterns from March of 1999 through March of 2011. 

Results turned up a few interesting patterns. First, the highest percentage of children (34.4%) had night terrors when they were pretty darn young — at just one and a half years old. But, sleepwalking peaked at age 10 (13.4%). Over half of all the kids experienced night terrors at some point during the data period, while just 29% ever experienced sleepwalking.

Beyond that, results also suggested a huge genetic component to sleepwalking in particular. Only 22.5% of kids with no parental history of sleepwalking  were sleepwalkers themselves, but that prevalence went up with one sleepwalking parent (47.4%) and increased even more with two sleepwalking parents (61.5%).

The study authors conclude that there's probably "a strong genetic influence on sleepwalking and, to a lesser degree, sleep terrors." In particular, they suggest that the genes involved in deep, slow-wave sleep may be responsible (basically, the opposite of exploding head syndrome). This follows previous research suggesting that this deep stage of sleep may be the most vulnerable to episodes of walking or terrors. 

So, if you're a sleepwalker, you might want to prepare for your kids to follow in your drowsy footsteps. 

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