The genetics of nightmares

The Balrog from Lord of the Rings, as interpreted in a painting by Markus Röncke

The Balrog from Lord of the Rings, as interpreted in a painting by Markus Röncke

Almost all of us experience nightmares from time to time, those terrible dreams that sometimes results in some of us leaping out of bed in horror. I rarely get or remember them, but when I do they can haunt me for days even though I know they weren’t real.

It should come as no surprise that how often we experience nightmares may be strongly influenced by our genes. It can also correlate with certain mental disorders. According to Correlates and Treatments of Nightmares in Adults:

A single study has investigated the possible genetic contributions to nightmares. Using the Finnish Twin Cohort, a nationwide questionnaire study that included 1,298 monozygotic and 2,419 dizygotic twin pairs aged 33–60, Hublin and colleagues47 found a genetic influence on nightmares that differed slightly between childhood and adult nightmares. Genetic effects accounted for an estimated 45% of the phenotypic variance in childhood, and for an estimated 37% in adulthood.

How often do you get nightmares?

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