JOURNAL ARTICLE

Families with sleepwalking

Michelle Cao, Christian Guilleminault
Sleep Medicine 2010, 11 (7): 726-34
20598633

BACKGROUND: Studies on families with sleepwalking are uncommonly published but can give further information on the phenotype of patients with chronic sleepwalking.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Out of 51 individuals referred for chronic sleepwalking during a 5-year period, we obtained sufficient information on 7 families with direct relatives who reported sleepwalking with or without sleep terrors. Among 70 living direct family members, we obtained questionnaire responses from 50 subjects and identified 34 cases with a history of sleepwalking. Of the 50 subjects, 16 completed only questionnaires, while all the others also completed a clinical evaluation and nocturnal sleep recordings.

RESULTS: There was a positive history of sleepwalking on either the paternal or maternal side of the family over several generations in our 7 families. Thirty-three clinically evaluated subjects had evidence of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), with associated craniofacial risk factors for SDB (particularly maxillary and/or mandibular deficiencies). There was a complete overlap with the report of parasomnias and the presence of SDB. In cases with current sleepwalking, treatment of SDB coincided with clear improvement of the parasomnia.

CONCLUSION: All of our subjects with parasomnias presented with familial traits considered as risk factors for SDB. These anatomical risk factors are present at birth and even subtle SDB can lead to sleep disruption and instability of NREM sleep. The question raised is: are factors leading to chronic sleep disruption the familial traits responsible for familial sleepwalking?

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