The heritability of insomnia from childhood to adolescence: results from a longitudinal twin study

Barclay, Nicola L.; Gehrman, P.R.; Gregory, Alice M.; Eaves, L.J and Silberg, J.L.. 2015. The heritability of insomnia from childhood to adolescence: results from a longitudinal twin study. Sleep, 38(1), pp. 109-118. ISSN 0161-8105 [Article]

PSY-Gregory-2014g.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (383kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

Study Objectives: To determine prevalence and heritability of insomnia during middle/late childhood and adolescence; examine longitudinal associations in insomnia over time; and assess the extent to which genetic and environmental factors on insomnia remain stable, or whether new factors come into play, across this developmental period.

Design: Longitudinal twin study.

Setting: Academic medical center.

Patients or Participants: There were 739 complete monozygotic twin pairs (52%) and 672 complete dizygotic twin pairs (48%) initially enrolled and were followed up at three additional time points (waves). Mode ages at each wave were 8, 10, 14, and 15 y (ages ranged from 8-18 y).

Interventions: None.

Measurements and Results: Clinical ratings of insomnia symptoms were assessed using the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment (CAPA) by trained clinicians, and rated according to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-III-R criteria for presence of ‘clinically significant insomnia’, over four sequential waves. Insomnia symptoms were prevalent but significantly decreased across the four waves (ranging from 16.6% to 31.2%). ‘Clinically significant insomnia’ was moderately heritable at all waves (h2 range = 14% to 38%), and the remaining source of variance was the nonshared environment. Multivariate models indicated that genetic influences at wave 1 contributed to insomnia at all subsequent waves, and that new genetic influences came into play at wave 2, which further contributed to stability of symptoms. Nonshared environmental influences were time-specific.

Conclusion: Insomnia is prevalent in childhood and adolescence, and is moderately heritable. The progression of insomnia across this developmental time period is influenced by stable as well as new genetic factors that come into play at wave 2. Molecular genetic studies should now identify genes related to insomnia progression during childhood and adolescence.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):

Additional Information:

This was not an industry supported study. This work was supported by the Mid-Atlantic Twin Registry and Award No. UL1TR000058 from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Science. We also acknowledge the support of the Virginia Retirement System and the US Department of Social Security. Data analyses were performed at Northumbria University, UK. Data was collected at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond, VA. Dr. Gehrman has received research grant support from Merck. The other authors have indicated no financial conflicts of interest.


Genetics, Insomnia, Sleep, Twins

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



1 May 2014Accepted
1 January 2015Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

25 Jul 2014 08:06

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:00

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)