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Study finds genetic link between sleep disorders and depression in young children
Date:1/31/2009

Westchester, Ill. A study in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal SLEEP was the first to use twin data to examine the longitudinal link between sleep problems and depression. Results of this study demonstrate that sleep problems predict later depression; the converse association was not found. These findings are consistent with the theory that early treatment of sleep problems may protect children from the development of depression.

Results of the study indicate that the stability of sleep problems across time is mainly caused by genetic factors (46 percent of the genetic influences on sleep at age 10 were the same as those that influenced a child at age 8). The stability of depression is mainly caused by non-shared environmental influences (19 percent of the non-shared environmental influence on depression at age 10 remained the same from the age of eight).

According to lead author Alice M. Gregory, senior lecturer in the department of psychology at Goldsmiths College in London, the most surprising result of the study concerned the reasons why there may be links between sleep problems and depression at different points in a young person's life.

"We reported in a study previously, that genes were the most important factor in explaining the association between sleep problems and depression in eight year olds," said Gregory. "However, when we examined this issue at age 10, we found that genes were less important in explaining the association and that environmental influences had become more important. This could be because environmental experiences are becoming more relevant as children grow older and could therefore play a role in both sleep problems and depression."

The process thought to underlie the associations between sleep and depression reflects abnormalities that are known to be influenced by genetic variations. A longitudinal twin study was used in order to distinguish shared and non-shared environmental influe
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Contact: Kelly Wagner
kwagner@aasmnet.org
708-492-0930
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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