Genetics May Influence Insomnia in Teens

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While a variety of factors affect a teen's sleep schedule (including staring at phone screens before bed), a new study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reveals that genetics may play a role as well. According to research conducted on twins, insomnia during adolescence is influenced by genetics. By definition, insomnia is "a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep." It can lead to fatigue, irritability, and behavioral problems during the day, Science Daily reports.

Results of the study found that the amount of genetic influence varied as the adolescents aged. The study group included 1,412 pairs of twins aged 8-18 years old. They were analyzed four times total, typically at ages 8, 10, 14, and 15. During ages 8-10, heredity accounted for 33-38% of insomnia cases. At age 14-15, heredity played a role in 14-24% of insomnia cases.

Philip Gehrman, the study's author and assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, explains:

Insomnia in youth is moderately related to genetic factors, but the specific genetic factors may change with age. We were most surprised by the fact that the genetic factors were not stable over time, so the influence of genes depends on the developmental stage of the child.

Gehrman's conclusion? "These results are important because the causes of insomnia may be different in teens and children, so they may need different treatment approaches," he says.

Overall, this shows that a variety of factors contribute to a teens' ability to fall asleep. Regardless of what may be keeping them up at night, the benefits of a good night's sleep are endless. From happier thoughts to less risk of car accidents, there are plenty of upsides to catching some Z''s!

To learn more about teen health, be sure to check out Choices! Choices is a health, well-being, and life skills magazine for middle and high school students.