There's a link between sleep disorders and depression

Harold Mandel's picture
A kid getitng some sleep
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It is vitally important for your kids to sleep well at night to maintain good mental health. Although good nutrition is often highlighted as being the most significant factor for good mental health in a growing child, the vital importance of good sleep should not be forgotten. Recent research points to a genetic link between sleep disorders in kids and depression.

Researchers set out to use quantitative genetic models to assess whether sleep duration modifies genetic and environmental influences on depressive symptoms, reports the journal Sleep. This study included 1,788 adult twins from 894 same-sex twin pairs made up of 192 male and 412 female monozygotic pairs, and 81 male and 209 female dizygotic pairs from the University of Washington Twin Registry. The participants were asked to self-report habitual sleep duration and depressive symptoms.

The data in this research were analyzed using quantitative genetic interaction models, which allowed the magnitude of additive genetic, shared environmental, and non-shared environmental influences on depressive symptoms to vary with the duration of sleep. Among the monozygotic twin pairs, the twins who reported longer sleep duration reported fewer depressive symptoms. It was noted that there was a significant gene × sleep duration interaction effect observed on depressive symptoms.

In the individuals with sleep duration within the normal range, the total heritability of depressive symptoms was found to be approximately 27 percent. However, among those individuals with sleep duration within the low, less than 7 hours a night, or high, 9 or more hours a night, increased genetic influence on depressive symptoms was observed. The increased genetic influence was found on depressive symptoms at sleep duration extremes going as low as 5 hours a night to as high as 10 hours a night. It was concluded that genetic contributions to depressive symptoms increase at both short and long durations of sleep.

In another study sleep deprivation at baseline predicted measures of depression at follow-up, reported the journal Sleep. In this study 4,175 youths aged 11-17 were followed at baseline, and 3,134 of these youths were followed up a year later. Sleep deprivation was defined as 6 or less hours of sleep a night. Sleep deprivation at baseline predicted measures of depression at follow-up. In a consideration of the reciprocal association, major depression at baseline predicted sleep deprivation at follow-up.

This study documented reciprocal effects for major depression and sleep deprivation among adolescents. The data suggested reduced quantity of sleep increases the risk for major depression, which in turn increases the risk for decreased sleep.

The researchers have come to the conclusion that there is a genetic link between sleep disorders and depression in young children, reported the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on Feb. 1, 2014. They studied the link between sleep problems and depression. The results of this study demonstrated that sleep problems predict later depression. These findings support the theory that early treatment of sleep problems may serve to protect kids from the development of depression.

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It has been indicated by this study that the stability of sleep problems across time is primarily caused by genetic factors. However, the stability of depression was found to be primarily caused by non shared environmental influences. Lead author Alice M. Gregory, who is senior lecturer in the department of psychology at Goldsmiths College in London, has said the most surprising result of the study concerned the reasons why it appears there may be links between sleep problems and depression at different points in the life of a young person.

In a previous study genes were reported to be the most important factor in explaining the association between sleep problems and depression in eight year old kids. However, when this issue was examined at age 10, it was found that genes were less important in explaining the association and instead environmental influences had become more significant. It appears this could be due to the fact that environmental experiences are becoming more relevant as kids grow older and could therefore play a significant role in both sleep problems and depression.

It was concluded by the researchers that even though childhood sleep problems have only a small influence on later depression, these issues deserve serious consideration because they can negatively affect a child in many manners, including:

1: Mood

2: Attention-span

3: Social function

4: Academic function

It has been suggested by these researchers that in comparison with other risk indicators of later problems, sleep difficulties are more easily approached and readily discussed with families without dealing with the negative stigma that may be associated with the discussion of mental health problems in children.

I have observed a growing problem with kids getting enough sleep as more and more high tech devices invade their lives. Many kids appear to be almost addicted to their iPods, iPads, smartphones, 3 DS games, and other devices and they often prefer to sneak extra time with their devices than get to sleep on time. Clearly, there is an environmental influence on parameters involving getting enough sleep regardless of what theories persist dealing with genetic factors, and so I believe lifestyle adjustments should be encouraged to help kids, and adults, get better sleep naturally.More exercise during the day, less time playing and working on high tech devices and watching TV, and avoidance of stimulants such as caffeine and too much chocolate, along with good daily nutrition appear advisable. Also, a quite, comfortable sleeping environment is important.

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