Genetic and environmental contributions to sleep-wake behavior in 12-year-old twins

Tracey L. Sletten*, Shantha M W Rajaratnam, Margaret J. Wright, Gu Zhu, Sharon Naismith, Nicholas G. Martin, Ian Hickie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Study Objectives: To examine the role of genetic and environmental factors on sleep behavior in 12-year-old twins matched for family environment. Design: Population-based twin cohort. Setting: Participants were assessed in their home environment. Patients or Participants: One hundred thirty-two adolescent twins comprising 25 monozygotic (MZ) and 41 dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs; aged 12.2 ± 0.1 y (mean ± standard deviation). Interventions: N/A. Measurements and Results: For 2 weeks in their home environment, participants wore a wrist activity monitor and completed a daily sleep diary. Sleep diaries included reports of bedtime, wake time, and estimated sleep onset time. Mean timing, duration, and quality of sleep during the 2 weeks were calculated for each individual and compared within twin pairs. MZ twin correlations were higher than the DZ correlations for total sleep time (MZr = 0.64; DZr = 0.38) and sleep onset latency (MZr = 0.83; DZr = 0.53) and significantly higher for wake after sleep onset (MZr = 0.66; DZr = 0.04) and sleep efficiency (MZr = 0.82; DZr = 0.10). Univariate modeling showed additive genetic factors accounted for 65% of the variance in total sleep time, 83% in sleep onset latency, and 52% and 57% of the variance in wake after sleep onset and sleep efficiency, respectively. A predominant influence of shared environment was found on the timing of sleep (67% for sleep start time, 86% for sleep end time). Conclusions: There is a strong genetic influence on the sleep-wake patterns of 12-year-old adolescents. Genes have a greater influence on sleep initiation and sleep maintenance and a smaller role in sleep timing, likely to be influenced by family environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1715-1722
Number of pages8
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescence
  • Environmental influences
  • Genetics
  • Heritability
  • Sleep
  • Twins

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