WASHINGTON: Children who suffer from frequent nightmares or bouts of night terrors may be at an increased risk of mental illness in adolescence, a new study said.
The study, published in the U.S. journal SLEEP, showed that children reporting frequent nightmares before the age of 12 were 3.5 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, it said.
Younger children between two and nine years old who had persistent nightmares reported by parents had up to 1.5 times increased risk of developing psychotic experiences.
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 rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
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. The thrashing of limbs and rapid body movements are witnessed in more extreme cases. Children wake up in the morning unaware of their activity throughout the night.