A new study claims that nightmares and sleepwalking are more likely for bullied children who experience being bullied between the ages of 8 and 10. The onset of the night terrors and sleep disturbances occurs before age 12.
It has long been verified by past studies that being bullied in childhood increases the risk of anxiety and depression in children and mental health issues into adulthood. The new discovery pinpoints the age at which bullying seems to have the most effect for inducing sleep disturbances.
The findings were published by Prof. Dieter Wolke and Dr. Suzet Tanya Lereya, of the University of Warwick in the UK in the journal Pediatrics.
“Being bullied can be very distressing for children, and victims display long-term social, psychological, and health consequences,” the researchers say. Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study – also published in Pediatrics – claiming bullying can have a severe impact on children’s long-term health, while another study suggests victims of bullying are at increased risk of anxiety and depression later in life.
According to the researchers, previous studies have found that sleepwalking, nightmares and night terrors – episodes of intense fear, screaming and thrashing around during sleep – can be triggered by stress, trauma or abuse.
But they note that there are limited studies investigating whether bullying in childhood – an issue that affects approximately 1 in 4 children in the US – can also be a cause of such sleep disorders, known as parasomnias.
To find out, the researchers assessed 6,796 children aged 8-10 years who were a part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).
All children were interviewed about their experiences of bullying, and at age 12, were interviewed by trained psychologists about their experiences of parasomnias.
The researchers found that children who were bullied aged 8-10 were more likely to experience sleepwalking, nightmares or night terrors at the age of 12 than those who were not bullied.