Nightmares may signal a child is being bullied

May 3, 2014, American Academy of Pediatrics

Many children who are bullied suffer in silence. The trauma can lead to anxiety, depression, psychotic episodes and even suicide.

There may be a way to identify victims of bullying before they experience serious , according to a study to be presented Saturday, May 3, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Researchers from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom found that nightmares or night terrors were more common in 12-year-olds who had reported being bullied when they were 8 and 10 years old.

"Nightmares are relatively common in childhood, while night terrors occur in up to 10 percent of ," said lead author Suzet Tanya Lereya, PhD, research fellow at University of Warwick. "If either occurs frequently or over a prolonged time period, they may indicate that a child/adolescent has or is being bullied by peers. These arousals in sleep may indicate significant distress for the child."

Dr. Lereya and Dieter Wolke, PhD, analyzed data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which examined the determinants of development, health and disease during childhood and beyond. Children were enrolled at birth, and 6,438 were interviewed at ages 8 and 10 years about bullying and at age 12 about parasomnias, including nightmares, night terrors and sleep walking.

Survey results showed that at age 12 years, 1,555 (24.2 percent) of children had nightmares, 598 (9.3 percent) had night terrors, 814 (12.6 percent) reported sleep walking and 2,315 (36 percent) had at least one type of parasomnia (nightmares, night terrors and sleep walking).

After adjusting for confounders (e.g., any psychiatric diagnosis, family adversity, IQ, internalizing and externalizing problems, sexual or physical abuse, domestic violence, and nightmares before 8 years), children who were victimized at 8 or 10 years were significantly more likely to have nightmares, night terrors or sleep walking at age 12. Moreover, those who were both a victim and a bully were much more likely to have any parasomnia, but bullies were not at increased risk of a sleep disturbance.

"Our findings indicate that being bullied is a significant stress/trauma that leads to increased risk of arousal problems, such as nightmares or night terrors," said Dr. Wolke, professor of developmental psychology and individual differences at University of Warwick. "It is an easily identifiable indicator that something scary is being processed during the night. Parents should be aware that this may be related to experiences of being bullied by peers, and it provides them with an opportunity to talk with their child about it.

"General practitioners also should consider peer bullying as a potential precursor of or night terrors in children," Dr. Wolke added.

Explore further: Frequent childhood nightmares may indicate an increased risk of psychotic traits

More information: Dr. Lereya will present "Can Bullying Become a Nightmare?" from 11:45 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 3. To view the study abstract, go to www.abstracts2view.com/pas/vie … hp?nu=PAS14L1_1415.6

Related Stories

Frequent childhood nightmares may indicate an increased risk of psychotic traits

February 28, 2014
Children who suffer from frequent nightmares or bouts of night terrors may be at an increased risk of psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to new research from the University of Warwick.

Childhood bullying shown to increase likelihood of psychotic experiences in later life

December 17, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—New research has shown that being exposed to bullying during childhood will lead to an increased risk of psychotic experiences in adulthood, regardless of whether they are victims or perpetrators.

Spotting sleep problems in special-needs children

March 5, 2013
(HealthDay)—About 30 percent of children have a sleep disorder, but the rate is even higher in children with special needs, an expert says.

Impact of childhood bullying still evident after 40 years

April 17, 2014
The negative social, physical and mental health effects of childhood bullying are still evident nearly 40 years later, according to new research by King's College London. The study is the first to look at the effects of bullying ...

Research finds bullies and victims three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts by age 11

February 29, 2012
as both a victim and a bully – are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts by the time they reach 11 years old, according to research from the University of Warwick.

Recommended for you

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

NeuroNext biomarker study explores natural history of infantile-onset SMA

January 9, 2018
Research led by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to define the natural history of infantile-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has been "critical" to accelerate the development of effective therapies and hasten ...

No link between childhood lead levels, later criminality

December 27, 2017
(HealthDay)— Exposure to higher levels of lead during early childhood can affect neurological development—but does that mean affected kids are doomed to delinquency?

Early puberty in girls may take mental health toll

December 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—A girl who gets her first menstrual period early in life—possibly as young as 7—has a greater risk for developing depression and antisocial behaviors that last at least into her 20s, a new study suggests.

Technology not taking over children's lives despite screen-time increase

December 21, 2017
With children spending increasing amounts of time on screen-based devices, there is a common perception that technology is taking over their lives, to the detriment and exclusion of other activities. However, new Oxford University ...

Higher blood sugar in early pregnancy raises baby's heart-defect risk

December 15, 2017
Higher blood sugar early in pregnancy raises the baby's risk of a congenital heart defect, even among mothers who do not have diabetes, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.