Childhood sleep disturbance and risk of psychotic experiences at 18 in a large UK birth cohort

Presentation First Author: 
Andrew Thompson

Introduction: Sleep disturbances are commonly reported in the psychosis prodrome but rarely explored in relation to psychotic experiences or as a risk indicator for these experiences. We investigated the relationship between specific early sleep disturbances in childhood, specific parasomnias (nightmares, night terrors and sleepwalking) and later adolescent psychotic experiences in a birth cohort. Methods: The data was from a large UK birth cohort study (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children - ALSPAC). The presence of frequent nightmares and other sleep disturbances in children was obtained prospectively from mothers during multiple assessments conducted when children were aged between 2.5 and 9 years. Experience of nightmares, night terrors and sleepwalking (specific parasomnias) was assessed using a semi-structured clinical interview at age 12. Psychotic experiences were assessed at age 18 years using a semi-structured clinical interview. 4720 children completed this interview at aged 18. Results: There was a significant association between the presence of nightmares at 12 and psychotic experiences at 18 when adjusted for possible confounders and psychotic experiences at 12 (OR 2.14, 95% CI 1.59–2.87) but not for the other specific parasomnias. The odds ratios for this association were larger for those who reported persistent psychotic experiences. There was a weaker relationship between early childhood nightmares and psychotic symptoms at 18 but no association with other sleep disturbances (insomnia or night waking). Conclusions: These findings tentatively suggest that arousal and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) forms of sleep disorder, especially nightmares, might be early indicators of susceptibility to psychotic experiences.

Conference Name: 
Presentation Date: 
January, 2015
Additional Authors: 
Tanya Lereya - Glyn Lewis - Stanley Zammit - Helen Fisher - Dieter Wolke
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