Genetic link found between stress-induced sleep loss and intrusive thinking

Jun 09, 2009

The genetic factors that cause increased sleep problems during times of stress seem to be the same as those that make people with intrusive and ruminative thoughts have a higher prevalence of insomnia.

Results indicate that sleep reactivity to stress mediates the genetic relationship between ruminative thoughts (unwanted thoughts that are difficult to control) and insomnia. Findings highlight the importance of revealing the influences of sleep reactivity on ruminative thoughts and insomnia.

According to lead author Naomi Friedman, PhD, senior research associate at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the substantial genetic predispositions to these problems may be modifiable; treatments designed to reduce sleep reactivity to stress might have the potential to improve insomnia related to rumination.

"Identification of genes underlying the association between sleep reactivity to stress and intrusive thinking and ruminative tendencies may enable the development of more targeted pharmacological interventions for insomnia," said Friedman. "At the nonpharmacological level, behavioral treatments could be designed to target specific aspects underlying a tendency towards rumination in the individual across many potential environmental triggers."

The study included 1782 individual twins (1059 females, 723 males) between the ages of

18 and 30 years. Genetic analyses included 744 complete twin pairs (377 monozygotic and 367 dizygotic). Participants completed an online sleep survey and questionnaires that measured sleep response to stress, frequency of intrusive thoughts, and frequency and severity of three insomnia symptoms (difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and non-refreshing sleep). Females included in the study had a higher prevalence of insomnia, more frequent intrusive thoughts and higher sleep reactivity to stress. The degree to which genetics influenced each of these traits was not significantly different for males and females, and the relationships among these variables were similar for males and females.

Authors of the study said that the findings of shared environmental influences on intrusive thinking, sleep reactivity to stress and confirm previous research showing that it may be beneficial for people with higher reactivity to stress and or ruminators to try to modify their environments to minimize their levels. Individuals with ruminative tendencies should attempt to discover the particular stressful environmental influences that trigger thoughts that can interfere with their sleep.

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine (news : web)

Explore further: Distracted driving among teens threatens public health and safety

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genetic link found between anxiety, depression and insomnia

Jun 08, 2009

The genes that play a role in adolescent insomnia are the same as those involved in depression and anxiety, according to a research abstract that will be presented at SLEEP 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated ...

'Night owls' report more insomnia-related symptoms

Apr 15, 2007

Those persons who are labeled a “night owl” report more pathological symptoms related to insomnia, despite many having the opportunity to compensate for their nocturnal sleeplessness by extending their time in bed and ...

Recommended for you

Smoking's toll on mentally ill analyzed

7 hours ago

Those in the United States with a mental illness diagnosis are much more likely to smoke cigarettes and smoke more heavily, and are less likely to quit smoking than those without mental illness, regardless ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Is Parkinson's an autoimmune disease?

The cause of neuronal death in Parkinson's disease is still unknown, but a new study proposes that neurons may be mistaken for foreign invaders and killed by the person's own immune system, similar to the ...