A study of nearly 1,800 adult twins suggests shortened sleep schedules heightens the chance of genetic depression. Study participants who had a normal sleep schedule—between seven and about nine hours of sleep—had about a one in four chance of having hereditary depression symptoms. Those who slept too long—10 hours—or too short—five hours—were about twice as likely to inherit genetic depression.
A study of more than 4,000 teenagers and pre-teens between ages 11 and 17 backed up the twins’ study results. Teens who slept six hours or fewer were more likely to develop major depression.
The authors of the twins study suggest the results should be interpreted to show that adequate sleep will improve the results of psychotherapy treatment of depression disorders. The authors of the study conducted on adolescents, meanwhile, suggest that sleep history become part of medical history for young people—doing so can help determine the risk for mood disorders.
Parents can help their teens sleep more by doing the following based on advice from a WebMD article:
- Have quiet time before bed. Give your teen time to wind down before bedtime without electronics.
- Let them sleep in on weekends. Puberty changes a child’s sleep clock. Teens biologically want to stay up later. To help offset the shift from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. bedtimes to 10 p.m. bedtimes, allow teens to sleep in on weekends. However, based on the twins study, it’s probably best to limit sleep duration to fewer than 10 hours of total sleep.
- Don’t overschedule. Avoid loading up your teen’s schedule with so many extracurricular activities that they don’t have time for sleep. Make sure getting enough sleep is a priority.
Getting the right amount of sleep is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for individuals who are genetically at risk for major depression and other mood disorders.