Frequent Nightmares may Indicate Bullying in Adolescents


By Kathleen Lees

A recent study shows that many children who are bullied may express some of their anxiety through nightmares.

According to researchers from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, they found that children who frequently had nightmares were more common in 12-year-old study participants who had reported being bullied whey they were 8 or 9.

“Nightmares are relatively common in childhood, while night terrors occur in up to 10 percent of children,” said lead author Suzet Tanya Lereya, PhD, research fellow at University of Warwick, via a press release. “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.”

Researchers analyzed data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which included 6,438 children interviewed between the ages of 8 and 10 who were interviewed regarding bullying and then again at age 12 regarding nightmares.

Survey results showed the following, courtesy of the release: “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).”

“Our findings indicate that being bullied is a significant stress/trauma that leads to increased risk of sleep 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 nightmares or night terrors in children,” Dr. Wolke added.

More information regarding the findings were presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.



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