PublicationsHeritability of sleep duration and quality
Epidemiological and interventional research has highlighted sleep as a potentially modifiable risk factor associated with poor physical and mental health. Emerging evidence from (behavioral) genetic research also shows that sleep characteristics are under strong genetic control. With this study we aimed to meta-analyze the literature in this area to quantify the heritability of sleep duration and sleep quality in the general population. We conducted a systematic literature search in five online databases on January 24th 2020. Two authors independently screened 5644 abstracts, and 160 complete articles for the inclusion criteria of twin studies from the general population reporting heritability statistics on sleep duration and/or quality, and written in English. We ultimately included 23 papers (19 independent samples: 45,328 twins between 6 mo and 88 y) for sleep duration, and 13 papers (10 independent samples: 39,020 twins between 16 and 95 y) for sleep quality. Collectively, we showed that 46% of the variability in sleep duration and 44% of the variability in sleep quality is genetically determined. The remaining variation in the sleep characteristics can mostly be attributed to the unique environment the twins experience, although the shared environment seemed to play a role for the variability of childhood sleep duration. Meta-analyzed heritability estimates for sleep duration, however, varied substantially with age (17% infancy, 20-52% childhood, 69% adolescence and 42-45% adulthood) and reporter (8% parent-report, 38-52% self-report). Heritability estimates for actigraphic and Polysomnography (PSG)-estimated sleep were based on few small samples, warranting more research. Our findings highlight the importance of considering genetic influences when aiming to understand the underlying mechanisms contributing to the trajectories of sleep patterns across the lifespan.