LONDON (CBS Atlanta) – Children who experience frequent nightmares and night terrors are more likely to suffer hallucinations and delusions as adults, reports Live Science.
Psychologists have always believed there’s a link between nightmares and psychotic behavior but it has never been clear which came first.
Researchers at the University of Warwick looked at survey data from nearly 7,000 English children.
Children in the study who had more frequent night terrors and nightmares between ages 2 and 9, as reported by their moms, were more likely to show psychotic symptoms, like hallucinations and hearing voices, by age 12, says the study.
Children who were still having frequent night terrors or nightmares at age 12 were about three times more likely to also demonstrate psychotic symptoms than kids who didn’t.
Overall, about 5.7 percent of children experienced psychotic symptoms at age 12, though many did not go on to be diagnosed with a full psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia in adulthood.
The researchers noted many children suffer from sleep disturbances. 37 percent of the children in the survey had nightmares at some point and the vast majority did not experience any psychotic symptoms later in life, said study co-author Dieter Wolke.
The study researchers aren’t sure why nighttime frights are linked with delusions and hallucinations.
One possibility is that traumas, such as being bullied or abused, cause the night terrors and nightmares as well as the psychosis symptoms later on in life.
“The underlying mechanism is that they’re both expressions that the organism is very distressed by experiences,” Wolke told Live Science.
The study is published in the journal Sleep.
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