What do people know about the heritability of sleep?

Madrid-Valero, J.J.; Chapman, Robert; Bailo, E; Ordoñana, Juan R.; Selita, Fatos; Kovas, Yulia and Gregory, Alice M.. 2021. What do people know about the heritability of sleep? Behavior Genetics, 51(2), pp. 144-153. ISSN 0001-8244 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Study Objectives
Twin studies have provided data about the relative weight of genetic and environmental factors on sleep variables over the last few decades. However, heritability is a non-intuitive concept and it is often misunderstood even amongst the scientific community. This study aimed to analyze: (1) understanding of the meaning of heritability of insomnia; (2) the accuracy of estimations of heritability in the general population regarding three sleep traits (sleep duration, sleep quality and insomnia); (3) perceptions of the effectiveness of different treatments for insomnia depending on how the disorder is presented (i.e. having an environmental or genetic etiology) and whether the subject’s estimate of genetic influence on sleep traits impacted beliefs about the effectiveness of different treatments.

Participants (N = 3658) completed a survey which included: questions about general genetic knowledge; a specific question about the meaning of heritability; estimates of heritability of three different sleep traits; and the effectiveness of different treatments for insomnia depending on how the etiology of this condition was presented.

Fewer than 25% of the participants selected the correct description of the heritability of insomnia. Almost half of the sample incorrectly believed that heritability refers to the chance of passing a disorder onto their children. We also found that participants provided different estimates for the effectiveness of different treatments depending on the presumed etiology of the disorder.

Most people do not have accurate knowledge about the concept of heritability. People’s assumptions about the etiology of a disorder may influence which treatments they consider most effective.

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Identification Number (DOI):



Genetic knowledge, Insomnia, Heritability, Sleep

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7 January 2021Accepted
23 January 2021Published Online
March 2021Published

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Date Deposited:

08 Jan 2021 11:42

Last Modified:

23 Jan 2022 02:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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