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Keywords:

  • behavioural genetics;
  • genetic association;
  • Diurnal preference;
  • sleep disruption

Summary

Sleep paralysis is a relatively common but under-researched phenomenon. In this paper we examine prevalence in a UK sample and associations with candidate risk factors. This is the first study to investigate the heritability of sleep paralysis in a twin sample and to explore genetic associations between sleep paralysis and a number of circadian expressed single nucleotide polymorphisms. Analyses are based on data from the Genesis1219 twin/sibling study, a community sample of twins/siblings from England and Wales. In total, data from 862 participants aged 22–32 years (34% male) were used in the study. This sample consisted of monozygotic and dizygotic twins and siblings. It was found that self-reports of general sleep quality, anxiety symptoms and exposure to threatening events were all associated independently with sleep paralysis. There was moderate genetic influence on sleep paralysis (53%). Polymorphisms in the PER2 gene were associated with sleep paralysis in additive and dominant models of inheritance—although significance was not reached once a Bonferroni correction was applied. It is concluded that factors associated with disrupted sleep cycles appear to be associated with sleep paralysis. In this sample of young adults, sleep paralysis was moderately heritable. Future work should examine specific polymorphisms associated with differences in circadian rhythms and sleep homeostasis further in association with sleep paralysis.