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Feb 03, 2014 05:24 AM EST

Getting Too Much or Too Little Sleep Causes Major Depression in Teens, Study

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Getting the right amount of sleep might keep depression at bay, according to American Academy of Sleep Medicine study. Researchers said that sub-optimal sleep or too much sleep can trigger genes linked with the condition and increase the risk for major depression.

For the study, the researchers conducted a genetic study of adult twins and a community-based study of adolescents. Both the studies found a link between sleep duration and depression.

"Healthy sleep is a necessity for physical, mental and emotional well-being," President Dr. M. Safwan Badr said in a press release. "This new research emphasizes that we can make an investment in our health by prioritizing sleep."

In the first study, the researchers found that twins who had a good night sleep of seven to 8.9 hours per night, had a 27 percent heritability of depressive symptoms and this genetic influence increased up to 53 percent in those that slept for five hours per night, while it was 49 percent among those who got 10 hours of sleep per night.

"We were surprised that the heritability of depressive symptoms in twins with very short sleep was nearly twice the heritability in twins sleeping normal amounts of time," said principal investigator Dr. Nathaniel Watson, said. "Both short and excessively long sleep durations appear to activate genes related to depressive symptoms."

In the second study, the researchers observed the sleeping patterns of 4,175 individuals between 11 and 17 years of age. They found that teens with six hours of sleep or less per night are more likely to suffer from major depression, further reducing the amount of sleep among them.

"These results are important because they suggest that sleep deprivation may be a precursor for major depression in adolescents, occurring before other symptoms of major depression and additional mood disorders," said principal investigator Dr. Robert E. Roberts, professor. "Questions on sleep disturbance and hours of sleep should be part of the medical history of adolescents to ascertain risk."

The researchers said that doctors need to have a conversation with their patient about their sleeping patterns to effectively treat depression.

The finding is published in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal Sleep.

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