Childhood nightmares may lead to psychotic traits in adulthood


London: Does your kid experience frequent nightmares or bouts of night terrors? He/she may be at a greater risk of psychotic experiences in adolescence, shows research.

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Children reporting frequent nightmares before age 12 were three and a half times more likely to suffer from psychotic experiences in early adolescence.

Similarly, experiencing night terrors doubled the risk of such problems, including hallucinations, interrupted thoughts or delusions.

“Younger children, between two and nine years old, who had persistent nightmares reported by parents had up to one and a half times increased risk of developing psychotic experiences,” said lead author professor Dieter Wolke from University of Warwick in Britain.

“We certainly do not want to worry parents with this news. However, nightmares over a prolonged period or bouts of night terrors that persist into adolescence can be an early indicator of something more significant in later life,” he explained.

By age 12, around one in four (24.4 percent) of children in the study reported having suffered from nightmares in the previous six months, with fewer than one in 10 (9.3 percent) experiencing episodes of night terrors during the same period.

Nightmares are considered to be commonplace in young children with incidence reducing as they grow older.

They occur in the second half of sleep during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep with the sensation of waking suddenly with a sense of fear, worry and possible palpitations.

Night terrors, a sleep disorder, differ from nightmares and occur during deep sleep (non-REM) cycles in the first half of the night.

A night terror bout is often signified by a loud scream and the individual sitting upright in a panicked state, though unaware of any of the involuntary action.

According to Helen Fisher from King’s College London: “The best advice is to try to maintain a lifestyle that promotes healthy sleep hygiene for your child, by creating an environment that allows for the best possible quality of sleep”.

Avoid sugary drinks before bed. Remove any affecting stimuli from the bedroom – be it television, video games or otherwise, said the research published in the journal SLEEP.