We pick up many personality traits and habits from our parents — whether we like it or not. Craving lots of starchy foods after a bad day? That could be thanks to dear old Mom. Are you something of an overachiever in everyday life? Well, hey there Pops, thanks for that one.
What we didn’t necessarily know until now is the way we sleep can also be influenced by our genes. A new study from Montreal’s Centre for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine says that if you tend to sleepwalk or experience night terrors, odds are that your kid will, too.
According to the study, both sleep disturbances are genetically linked, and a child whose parent suffers from night terrors or sleepwalking is three-to-seven per cent more likely to experience it too. That likelihood goes up even further if both parents have experienced similar sleep problems.
That’s not all. The same study links sleep terrors and sleepwalking in general, pointing out that roughly 33 per cent of children with night terrors (which occur when the central nervous system is overstimulated during sleep and are much worse than a common nightmare) will also be sleepwalkers.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for either condition, but there are steps you can take. Researchers have found that being overtired, ill, stressed or fatigued could lead to night terrors, especially in children. Meanwhile, sleeping in a new environment or changing up medication could also be a factor.
If you’re a sleepwalker, you should also try to get regular, adequate sleep and perhaps take up meditation to clear your mind. It’s also a good idea to avoid any kind of audio or visual stimulation at least an hour before bed (bonus tip: this is also a good idea for non-sleepwalkers looking to get more satisfying shuteye).
In addition, sleepwalkers should take extra steps to protect themselves so that they don’t become injured during sleep. Don’t leave harmful or sharp objects laying around the bedroom, and sleep in a bedroom on the ground floor if possible (and no, that doesn’t mean the couch). Also lock all of the doors and windows before bed, cover windows with heavy curtains and put an alarm or bell on the bedroom door. If your condition continues to worsen or becomes abnormal for you, consult your doctor.
Meanwhile, if you see a sleepwalker it won’t be the end of the world if you do wake them up, but the best thing to do is just lead them gently back to bed.