Treating sleep problems early in life may protect children from developing depression as they get older. Alice M. Gregory, from the department of psychology at Goldsmiths College, London, used data from 300 twins in order to evaluate the association between sleep problems and depression.
The twins, born between 1994 and 1996, were tested for anxiety, depression and sleep problems. To assess the nature of the sleep problem parents were asked to record their observations on the Child Sleep Habits Questionnaire (CSHQ). The questionnaire records bedtime resistance, sleep-onset delay, sleep duration, sleep anxiety, night waking, parasomnias, sleep disordered breathing and daytime sleepiness.
Symptoms of depression were assessed in 8-year-old twins using the Children's Depression Inventory (CDI). Data were again gathered when twins reached the age of 10, along with information on sleep problems.
The results of the study suggest that sleep problems over time are largely due to genetic factors, although environmental factors exert more influence as children age. In previous research by Gregory, she reported that genes, "were the most important factor in explaining the association between sleep problems and depression in eight year olds". By the age of 10, there is evidence that environmental factors become more influential.
The findings of the research ultimately suggest that childhood sleep problems have a modest effect on later depression. Despite this, the seriousness of sleep problems in childhood are such that a child's social and academic skills can suffer greatly. In terms of therapy it may be easier to discuss to discuss the effects of sleep problems rather than mental health issues. Discussion of sleep may help to identify and alleviate problems as well as acting as a marker for possible mental health problems in later life.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2009, February 1). Genetic Link Found Between Sleep Disorders And Depression In Young Children. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 2, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/02/090201094127.htm
Published On: February 02, 2009