Posted Thursday, June 28, 2012
Newly released findings from Bradley Hospital published in the journal SLEEP have found that a specific gene occurs more frequently in young people who experience depression symptoms when they don’t get enough sleep. The study, titled “Short Sleep as an Environmental Exposure: A Preliminary Study Associating 5-HTTLPR Genotype to Self-Reported Sleep Duration and Depressed Mood in First-Year University Students,” was led by Mary A. Carskadon, Ph.D., director of chronobiology and sleep research at Bradley Hospital.
The study examined first-year college students and found that those who slept for fewer than seven hours a night - based on daily reports for eight weeks - and also showed symptoms of depressed mood on a standard measure were significantly more likely to carry a specific genotype associated with low serotonin transporter production. Serotonin plays a role in mood regulation.
These findings indicate that the risk for mood problems when lacking in sleep is greater in some people than others. While physicians have long advocated that adequate sleep is important for everyone and affects many health-related outcomes, in the case of depressed mood symptoms specifically, this research discovered that individual differences in the serotonin system may affect how sleep and mood interact.
“The way we sleep or choose to sleep provides a behavioral ‘environment’ that can impact our health,” said Carskadon. “Just as tobacco smoking or alcohol consumption interact with genetics, so too do our sleep patterns. Getting too little sleep can set you up for mood problems that may lead to serious mental health problems. In essence, sleep matters.”
In the future, these findings may help physicians to more effectively treat people who are depressed or to prevent depression altogether by helping patients to achieve better sleep.
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under award number 5R01MH079179. Direct financial and infrastructure support for this project was received through the Lifespan Office of Research Administration.
The principal affiliation of Carskadon is Bradley Hospital (a member hospital of the Lifespan health system in Rhode Island). She is also a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
Filed under: Bradley, Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center,