For the study, the team used a sample of 4,060 individuals from a British birth cohort.
They used parental reports on their child’s experience of regular nightmares between the ages of two and nine.
They then used interviews to assess experiences of nightmares, night terrors and sleep-walking at age 12 and psychotic experiences at age 18.
“The presence of anxiety and depressive symptoms as confounding factors in those with sleep disturbance could potentially explain the findings,” said lead author Andrew Thompson from Warwick Medical School.
At age 12, 24.9 percent of children reported having nightmares in the previous six months and 7.9 percent of the sample were found to be experiencing psychotic symptoms.
There was around twice the odds of later experiencing psychotic symptoms in those earlier reporting nightmares.
“The research could have implications for the way early nightmares and night terrors are viewed and potentially addressed by professionals or carers,” Thompson added.
“These initial results did suggest that specific parasomnias such as persistent nightmares in children could be a potential risk indicator for the development of psychotic experiences and possible psychotic disorder,” Thompson said.
The study appeared in the British Journal of Psychiatry.