Sleepwalking is inherited, study suggests

By Tom Nordlie • Published: August 24th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Sleepwalking is one of the more common sleep disturbances in children. For parents, it can be unnerving. Although sleepwalkers are up and about, they’re often disoriented … and less than coherent. The good news is that most kids grow out of sleepwalking.

Now, a study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics suggests that when those kids grow up and become parents, they may pass along a predisposition to sleepwalk.

The study involved about 2,000 children in the Canadian province of Quebec who ranged in age from two-and-a-half to 13 years old. Their parents filled out questionnaires that asked if the children ever sleepwalked and whether the parents themselves had sleepwalked during their younger years.

The results indicated that about 30 percent of the children overall had experienced episodes of sleepwalking. The condition most often manifested itself in children between the ages of 8 and 12.

Here’s where heredity comes in.

Children with one parent who was a former sleepwalker were three times as likely to sleepwalk, compared with kids whose parents had no history of sleepwalking. If both parents were former sleepwalkers, the child was seven times as likely to follow in their footsteps.

These results can give parents a rough idea of their child’s potential to sleepwalk or not sleepwalk, but of course there are no guarantees.

Still, forewarned is forearmed, and it’s not a bad idea for all parents to take precautions against some common sleepwalking hazards, such as children falling down staircases or walking out the front door.

Even kids who don’t sleepwalk can blunder into danger during the middle of the night, and parents need to be awake to that possibility.