Regular nightmares in childhood may be an early warning sign of psychotic disorders, researchers in the UK warn.
Nightmares are common in children but persistent ones may hint at something serious- psychotic disorders. A study done at the University of Warwick followed nearly 6800 people up to the age of 12. The results 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.
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 have some form of psychotic experience.
However, the link between sleep problems and psychosis is not clear. According to one theory, the symptoms can be caused by bullying or traumatic events early in life. Or the children’s brain wiring that defines the boundaries between real and unreal, and sleeping and wakefulness, are less discrete.
One of the researchers, Prof Dieter Wolke said a regular routine and quality sleep were keys to tackling nightmares: "Sleep hygiene is very important; they should have more regular sleep, avoid anxiety-promoting films before bed and not have a computer at night."
The study was published in the journal sleep.
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