Gene Linked to Sleepwalking

Sleeping Disorders May Run in Families for Genetic Reasons

From the WebMD Archives

Feb. 14, 2003 -- Can't get a good night's sleep? You may have your parents to blame. A new study adds sleepwalking to the list of sleeping disorders linked to a specific genetic marker.

Genes called HLA are part of the immune system, and a variation called HLA-DQB1 is also associated with sleep disorders such as narcolepsy and REM sleep disorder.

In this study, researchers compared the genetic profile of 60 people with a sleepwalking disorder and their families with 60 ethnically matched people without any diagnosed sleeping disorder. They found that 21 of the sleepwalkers (35%) had the HLA-DQB1 gene, compared with only eight (13%) of the healthy subjects.

Researcher M. Lecendreux, of the Service de Psychopathologie de l'Enfant et de l'Adolescent at the Hôpital Robert Dobré in Paris, and colleagues say this is the first genetic marker for sleepwalking. Their findings appear in the current issue of Molecular Psychiatry.

In addition, researchers say the discovery of this common genetic link between sleepwalking and REM sleep behavior disorder might explain why many patients suffer from both disorders. They also write that their study may show a close relationship between the immune system and sleep, but this was not investigated further.

SOURCE: Molecular Psychiatry, Vol. 8, no. 1, 2003.