Study objectives: To establish the direction and etiology of longitudinal associations between sleep problems and depression symptoms in children.
Design: Data on twins aged 8 and 10 years were obtained. At assessments, parents completed the Child Sleep Habits Questionnaire, and twins completed the Children's Depression Inventory.
Setting: Participants were mainly interviewed at the Institute of Psychiatry, London.
Patients or participants: Three hundred twin pairs initially enrolled in the study.
Measurements and results: A genetically informative cross-lagged model examined links between sleep and depression. Sleep problems at age 8 predicted depression at age 10 (partial regression coefficient [95% confidence intervals] = 0.10 [0.01-0.18]). The converse was not found. Stability of sleep problems across time was mainly due to genes (46% of the genetic influence on sleep at 10 was due to the same genetic influence on sleep aged 8). Stability of depression was mainly due to non-shared environmental influences (19% of the nonshared environmental influence on depression at 10 was due to the same nonshared environmental influence on depression at age 8). The cross-lagged association between sleep problems at 8 and depression at 10 years was largely due to genes, although this finding was nonsignificant.
Conclusions: This study adds to our understanding of the temporal precedence of sleep problems and depression and the risks underlying their associations. There are implications regarding the value of specifying genes linked to sleep problems and potential opportunities for informing early intervention strategies in high-risk groups at key points in the progression to developing more serious problems.