Nightmares may be a ‘health warning’ – Research suggests

Nightmares may be a ‘health warning’ – Research suggests

Nightmares may be a ‘health warning’ – Research suggests

Written by Bella Dalima

01 Mar, 2014 | 5:18 pm

Regular nightmares in childhood may be an early warning sign of psychotic disorders, researchers in the UK warn.

The study, in the journal Sleep, said most children had nightmares, but persistent ones may be a sign of something more serious. Having night terrors – screaming and thrashing limbs while asleep – also heightened the risk.

Nearly 6,800 people were followed up to the age of 12. Parents were regularly asked about any sleep problems in their children and at the end of the study the children were assessed for psychotic experiences such as hallucinations, delusions and thinking their thoughts were being controlled.

The study showed that the majority of children had nightmares at some point, but in 37% of cases, parents reported problems with nightmares for several years in succession.

One in 10 of the children had night terrors, generally between the ages of three and seven. The team at the University of Warwick said a long-term problem with nightmares and terrors was linked to a higher risk of mental health problems later.

Around 47 in every 1,000 children has some form of psychotic experience.

However, those having nightmares aged 12 were three-and-a-half times more likely to have problems and the risk was nearly doubled by regular night terrors.

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