Previous genetic investigations of variation in normal sleep have focused on measures that describe sleep over longer periods of time. We undertook a study with the aim of evaluating whether heritability can be found in single-night sleep traits. A classical twin study design of monozygotic and dizygotic twins, enriched with siblings of twins was employed. The study included adult twin pairs and their siblings (N = 813 subjects from 342 families). A subsample of 66 individuals participated twice. For a single night, bedtime, awakening time and subjective sleep quality were assessed using a diary. The diary also assessed smoking, alcohol and coffee consumption, and the subjective evaluation of stress. Resemblance between family members was used to estimate the heritability of bedtime, awakening time, sleep problems and sleep quality as a function of sex. Most sleep measures showed familial clustering, but results differed for men and women. Heritability for bedtime and sleep problems was seen in women; and for awakening time in men. We conclude that heritability can be demonstrated for bedtime and subjective evaluation of even a single night of sleep. The contribution of the genetic make-up is sex specific. In women variance in awakening time is so affected by environmental circumstances, that the genetic contribution to the variance becomes negligible. In contrast, for males, variance in the evening bedtime is so affected by environmental circumstances, that the genetic contribution to the variance becomes negligible.
- Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)