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Bullying Predicts Sleep Walking in Kids

Update Date: Sep 12, 2014 05:48 PM EDT

Victims of bullying are more likely to sleep walk and suffer night terrors and nightmares, according to a new child study.

Researchers found that kids who are bullied at ages 8 through 10 are more likely to suffer sleep walking, night terrors or nightmares by the time they turn 12.

Lead researchers Professor Dieter Wolke and Dr. Suzet Tanya Lereya from the University of Warwick found that being bullied increases the risk of sleep disorders called parasomnias, which are related to nightmares, night terrors or sleep-walking.

For the study, researchers interviewed children between eight and 10 about bullying. Later, researchers interviewed the same kids about parasomnia symptoms at age 12 and 13.

"We found children who were bullied at age 8 or 10 years were more likely to have nightmares, night terrors, or sleepwalking at age 12 years. Moreover, those who were bullied and bullied others (bully/victims) were most likely to have any parasomnia," Wolke of Warwick Medical School and the Department of Psychology

"Consistent with previous studies, being a female, having persistent sleep problems, and emotional and behavior problems in childhood additionally increased the risk for parasomnias at age 12 years," said Wolke.

Researchers believe that stress is an important mechanism that links bullying to parasomnias.

"Nightmares may occur when anxiety exceeds a threshold level and several studies have suggested that trait anxiety may be related to the frequency of parasomnias. However, even after controlling for pre-existing anxiety problems our results showed that being bullied may increase the risk for parasomnias," added Lereya.

"If a child is experiencing frequent parasomnias, parents, teachers, school counselors, and clinicians may consider asking about bullying. This would allow detecting bullied children and providing the help they need at an early time to reduce the negative effects of being bullied," researchers concluded.

The findings are published in the journal Pediatrics.

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