Although incident parasomnias are uncommon as children enter adolescence, parasomnias present in preadolescents may persist into the teen years, according to a research abstract presented at SLEEP 2010.

Results indicate that the rate of persistence after 5 years was 29% for children with bedwetting and 27% for children with sleepwalking. The overall prevalence for these parasomnias was 2.6% and 3.1%, respectively. The study also found that the incidence rate for new cases of sleepwalking was 3.2% during the follow-up period, while the incidence rate for new cases of bedwetting was less than 1%.

"Current wisdom was that most of these behaviors remitted by adolescence," said principal investigator Stuart F. Quan, MD, professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "Our data indicate that in a number of children, they will persist. Because parasomnias such as sleepwalking can be injurious as children grow older, parents need to be cognizant and be prepared to protect them from injury."

The study involved 310 children in the Tucson Children’s Assessment of Sleep Apnea Study (TuCASA), a prospective cohort study that enrolled children between the ages of 6 and 11 years for an initial assessment. The children were studied again after a mean interval of 4.6 years. At both time points, parents were asked to complete comprehensive sleep habit surveys.

Results also show that all cases of sleep terrors remitted by adolescence. The most common problem was sleep talking, which had a prevalence rate of 22.3% and persisted into adolescence in 46% of cases. However, Quan noted that sleep talking typically is a minor hindrance that requires no treatment.