Sleep

February 4, 2009

A new longitudinal twin study were recently published that adds further evidence that sleep problems in children are predictive of depression later on.

I'll admit it: I have a thing for Hugh Laurie. I first saw him in Stuart Little and took, well, little notice of him, but he has created a phenomenal character in House. I rarely get to watch TV, but I’m glued to the screen when I catch that show… So, you can imagine my glee when I saw on the show's website a T-shirt being sold to benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Who better to comment on normalcy than Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital’s resident sociopath? I’m buying one.

Speaking of mental health, there is a new longitudinal twin study published in the new issue of Sleep that adds further evidence that sleep problems in children are predictive of depression later on. What makes this study interesting is that factors used to explain the association between sleep and depression appear to be stronger or weaker depending on the age of the child: genes take precedence in children at the age of 8, and by age 10, environmental factors become more important. Forty six percent of genetic influences on sleep at 10 years of age were the same as the genetic influences at age 8, and 19% of the non-shared environmental influences on depression at age 10 were the same as for the age of 8.

This isn’t a study that would necessarily be interesting to parents, but it does serve as a reminder that a lack of restful sleep affects mood, plus a whole host of other things that can affect kids’ performance in school, general safety, and health. We adults are the world’s worst role models—we tell our children to make healthy food choices and get a full night’s rest, while we eat whatever is available and stay up all hours. What’s worse is that right now, many American adults are too stressed out to even notice what we are doing to ourselves, and parents in particular can use a reminder every now and again.

A sixth grader that I worked with today yawned constantly during our visit, and when I asked him if he was getting in bed on time, his answer was yes. But he amended his response by saying that he has a new baby sister that cries during the night, so that everyone in his house was sleepy. I saw a new product in Target in the last couple of days that was created specifically to target this problem, called the “Good Night Sleep Trainer.” Anyone heard of it? I’d like to know from anyone who’s used it or reviewed it as to how well it works. It’s for babies older than 3 months of age that allows parents to compare their child’s sleep to statistical norms, and help “train” the child to soothe his or herself into a longer sleep. This may be one of those products that can hold it’s own during the economic downturn. After all, who can put a price tag on being able to rest?