A twin and molecular genetics study of sleep paralysis and associated factors.

Denis, Dan; French, Christopher C.; Rowe, Richard; Zavos, Helena M. S.; Nolan, Patrick M.; Parsons, Michael J. and Gregory, Alice M.. 2015. A twin and molecular genetics study of sleep paralysis and associated factors. Journal of Sleep Research, 24(4), pp. 438-446. ISSN 0962-1105 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

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 (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 independently associated with sleep paralysis. There was moderate genetic influence on sleep paralysis (53%). Polymorphisms in the PER2 gene was 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 further examine specific polymorphisms associated with differences in circadian rhythms and sleep homeostasis in association with sleep paralysis.

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Additional Information:

Waves 1-3 funded by the W T Grant Foundation, the University of London Central Research fund and a Medical Research Council Training Fellowship (G81/343) and Career Development Award to Thalia C. Eley. Wave 4 supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (RES-000-22-2206) and the Institute of Social Psychiatry (06/07 – 11) to Alice M. Gregory who was supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (RF/2/RFG/2008/0145). Wave 5 was supported by the funding to Alice M. Gregory by the Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths University of London.

DNA extraction was funded by the Goldsmiths Early Career Award to Alice Gregory. Funding for the genotyping was provided by a Medical Research Council Core Grant (Nolan).

Dan Denis is supported by an ESRC Advanced Quantitative Methods PhD studentship (grant code ES/J500215/1).


behavioural genetics, genetic association, SNP, circadian expressed genes

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Psychology > Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit (APRU)


9 February 2015Published

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Date Deposited:

06 Jan 2015 14:32

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:05

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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