Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Sleep duration, brain structure, and psychiatric and cognitive problems in children

Abstract

Low sleep duration in adults is correlated with psychiatric and cognitive problems. We performed for the first time a large-scale analysis of sleep duration in children, and how this relates to psychiatric problems including depression, to cognition, and to brain structure. Structural MRI was analyzed in relation to sleep duration, and psychiatric and cognitive measures in 11,067 9–11-year-old children from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, using a linear mixed model, mediation analysis, and structural equation methods in a longitudinal analysis. Dimensional psychopathology (including depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior) in the children was negatively correlated with sleep duration. Dimensional psychopathology in the parents was also correlated with short sleep duration in their children. The brain areas in which higher volume was correlated with longer sleep duration included the orbitofrontal cortex, prefrontal and temporal cortex, precuneus, and supramarginal gyrus. Longitudinal data analysis showed that the psychiatric problems, especially the depressive problems, were significantly associated with short sleep duration 1 year later. Further, mediation analysis showed that depressive problems significantly mediate the effect of these brain regions on sleep. Higher cognitive scores were associated with higher volume of the prefrontal cortex, temporal cortex, and medial orbitofrontal cortex. Public health implications are that psychopathology in the parents should be considered in relation to sleep problems in children. Moreover, we show that brain structure is associated with sleep problems in children, and that this is related to whether or not the child has depressive problems.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Sleep duration, and cognitive and psychiatric problems scores.
Fig. 2: Brain regions with their area significantly related to sleep duration, cognitive scores, and depressive scores.
Fig. 3: The relation between depressive problems scores and sleep duration.

References

  1. 1.

    Freeman D, Sheaves B, Goodwin GM, Yu LM, Nickless A, Harrison PJ, et al. The effects of improving sleep on mental health (OASIS): a randomised controlled trial with mediation analysis. Lancet Psychiatry. 2017;4:749–58.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Yaffe K, Falvey CM, Hoang T. Connections between sleep and cognition in older adults. Lancet Neurol. 2014;13:1017–28.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    de Bruin EJ, van Run C, Staaks J, Meijer AM. Effects of sleep manipulation on cognitive functioning of adolescents: a systematic review. Sleep Med Rev. 2017;32:45–57.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    St-Onge MP, Grandner MA, Brown D, Conroy MB, Jean-Louis G, Coons M, et al. Sleep duration and quality: impact on lifestyle behaviors and cardiometabolic health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2016;134:e367–86.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Canivet C, Nilsson PM, Lindeberg SI, Karasek R, Ostergren PO. Insomnia increases risk for cardiovascular events in women and in men with low socioeconomic status: a longitudinal, register-based study. J Psychosom Res. 2014;76:292–9.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Chan MS, Chung KF, Yung KP, Yeung WF. Sleep in schizophrenia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of polysomnographic findings in case-control studies. Sleep Med Rev. 2017;32:69–84.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Cheng W, Rolls ET, Ruan H, Feng J. Functional connectivities in the brain that mediate the association between depressive problems and sleep quality. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018;75:1052–61.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Deng HB, Tam T, Zee BC, Chung RY, Su X, Jin L et al. Short sleep duration increases metabolic impact in healthy adults: a population-based cohort study. Sleep. 2017;40:zsx130.

  9. 9.

    Gileles-Hillel A, Kheirandish-Gozal L, Gozal D. Biological plausibility linking sleep apnoea and metabolic dysfunction. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2016;12:290–8.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Baglioni C, Nanovska S, Regen W, Spiegelhalder K, Feige B, Nissen C, et al. Sleep and mental disorders: a meta-analysis of polysomnographic research. Psychol Bull. 2016;142:969–90.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Kaufmann T, Elvsashagen T, Alnaes D, Zak N, Pedersen PO, Norbom LB, et al. The brain functional connectome is robustly altered by lack of sleep. Neuroimage. 2016;127:324–32.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Lo JC, Loh KK, Zheng H, Sim SK, Chee MW. Sleep duration and age-related changes in brain structure and cognitive performance. Sleep. 2014;37:1171–8.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Dutil C, Walsh JJ, Featherstone RB, Gunnell KE, Tremblay MS, Gruber R, et al. Influence of sleep on developing brain functions and structures in children and adolescents: a systematic review. Sleep Med Rev. 2018;42:184–201.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Tononi G, Cirelli C. Sleep and the price of plasticity: from synaptic and cellular homeostasis to memory consolidation and integration. Neuron. 2014;81:12–34.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Astill RG, Van der Heijden KB, Van Ijzendoorn MH, Van Someren EJ. Sleep, cognition, and behavioral problems in school-age children: a century of research meta-analyzed. Psychol Bull. 2012;138:1109–38.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Yaffe K, Nasrallah I, Hoang TD, Lauderdale DS, Knutson KL, Carnethon MR, et al. Sleep duration and white matter quality in middle-aged adults. Sleep. 2016;39:1743–7.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Telzer EH, Goldenberg D, Fuligni AJ, Lieberman MD, Galvan A. Sleep variability in adolescence is associated with altered brain development. Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2015;14:16–22.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Tarokh L, Saletin JM, Carskadon MA. Sleep in adolescence: physiology, cognition and mental health. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016;70:182–8.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Casey BJ, Cannonier T, Conley MI, Cohen AO, Barch DM, Heitzeg MM, et al. The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study: imaging acquisition across 21 sites. Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2018;32:43–54.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Gorham LS, Jernigan T, Hudziak J, Barch DM. Involvement in sports, hippocampal volume, and depressive symptoms in children. Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. 2019;4:484–92.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Paulus MP, Squeglia LM, Bagot K, Jacobus J, Kuplicki R, Breslin FJ, et al. Screen media activity and brain structure in youth: evidence for diverse structural correlation networks from the ABCD study. Neuroimage. 2019;185:140–53.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Hagler DJ, Jr., Hatton S, Cornejo MD, Makowski C, Fair DA, Dick AS et al. Image processing and analysis methods for the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study. Neuroimage. 2019;202:116091.

  23. 23.

    Desikan RS, Ségonne F, Fischl B, Quinn BT, Dickerson BC, Blacker D, et al. An automated labeling system for subdividing the human cerebral cortex on MRI scans into gyral based regions of interest. Neuroimage. 2006;31:968–80.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Fischl B, Salat DH, Busa E, Albert M, Dieterich M, Haselgrove C, et al. Whole brain segmentation: automated labeling of neuroanatomical structures in the human brain. Neuron. 2002;33:341–55.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Bruni O, Ottaviano S, Guidetti V, Romoli M, Innocenzi M, Cortesi F, et al. The Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children (SDSC). Construction and validation of an instrument to evaluate sleep disturbances in childhood and adolescence. J Sleep Res. 1996;5:251–61.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Luciana M, Bjork JM, Nagel BJ, Barch DM, Gonzalez R, Nixon SJ, et al. Adolescent neurocognitive development and impacts of substance use: Overview of the adolescent brain cognitive development (ABCD) baseline neurocognition battery. Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2018;32:67–79.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Achenbach TM, Rescorla LA, Maruish ME. The Achenbach system of empirically based assessment (ASEBA) for ages 1.5 to 18 years. In: Maruish ME, editor. The use of psychological testing for treatment planning and outcomes assessment, 3rd ed. Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum; 2004. p. 179–213. vol. 2.

  28. 28.

    Dick AS, Garcia NL, Pruden SM, Thompson WK, Hawes SW, Sutherland MT, et al. No evidence for a bilingual executive function advantage in the nationally representative ABCD study. Nat Hum Behav. 2019;3:692–701.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Benjamini Y, Hochberg Y. Controlling the false discovery rate—a practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. J R Stat Soc B. 1995;57:289–300.

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Wager TD, Davidson ML, Hughes BL, Lindquist MA, Ochsner KN. Prefrontal-subcortical pathways mediating successful emotion regulation. Neuron. 2008;59:1037–50.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Lim SL, Padmala S, Pessoa L. Segregating the significant from the mundane on a moment-to-moment basis via direct and indirect amygdala contributions. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2009;106:16841–6.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Baron RM, Kenny DA. The moderator–mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1986;51:1173–82.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Muthén LK, Muthén BO. The comprehensive modeling program for applied researchers user guide. 7th ed. Los Angeles, CA; 2015. https://www.statmodel.com.

  34. 34.

    Quach JL, Nguyen CD, Williams KE, Sciberras E. Bidirectional associations between child sleep problems and internalizing and externalizing difficulties from preschool to early adolescence. JAMA Pediatr. 2018;172:e174363.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Kessler RC. Linear panel analysis: models of quantitative change. Amsterdam: Elsevier; 2014.

  36. 36.

    Hale L, Guan S. Screen time and sleep among school-aged children and adolescents: a systematic literature review. Sleep Med Rev. 2015;21:50–58.

    PubMed  Article  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Carter B, Rees P, Hale L, Bhattacharjee D, Paradkar MS. Association between portable screen-based media device access or use and sleep outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics. 2016;170:1202–8.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Hibar D, Westlye LT, Doan NT, Jahanshad N, Cheung J, Ching CR, et al. Cortical abnormalities in bipolar disorder: an MRI analysis of 6503 individuals from the ENIGMA Bipolar Disorder Working Group. Mol Psychiatry. 2018;23:932.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Cheng W, Rolls ET, Qiu J, Liu W, Tang Y, Huang CC, et al. Medial reward and lateral non-reward orbitofrontal cortex circuits change in opposite directions in depression. Brain. 2016;139:3296–309.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Rolls ET. The orbitofrontal cortex and emotion in health and disease, including depression. Neuropsychologia. 2019;128:14–43.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Rolls ET, Wirth S. Spatial representations in the primate hippocampus, and their functions in memory and navigation. Prog Neurobiol. 2018;171:90–113.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Rolls ET. The orbitofrontal cortex. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2019.

  43. 43.

    Cheng W, Rolls ET, Qiu J, Yang D, Ruan H, Wei D, et al. Functional connectivity of the precuneus in unmedicated patients with depression. Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. 2018;3:1040–9.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Rolls ET. The brain, emotion, and depression. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2018.

  45. 45.

    Gent TC, Bassetti C, Adamantidis AR. Sleep-wake control and the thalamus. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2018;52:188–97.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Brown RE, Basheer R, McKenna JT, Strecker RE, McCarley RW. Control of sleep and wakefulness. Physiol Rev. 2012;92:1087–187.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Rolls ET. The cingulate cortex and limbic systems for emotion, action, and memory. Brain Struct Funct. 2019;224:3001–18.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Kocevska D, Muetzel RL, Luik AI, Luijk MP, Jaddoe VW, Verhulst FC et al. The developmental course of sleep disturbances across childhood relates to brain morphology at age 7: the Generation R Study. Sleep. 2017;40:zsw022.

  49. 49.

    Mulder TA, Kocevska D, Muetzel RL, Koopman‐Verhoeff ME, Hillegers MH, White T, et al. Childhood sleep disturbances and white matter microstructure in preadolescence. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2019;60:1242–50.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

Use of the ABCD (https://abcdstudy.org/) dataset is acknowledged. A full list of supporters of ABCD project is available at https://abcdstudy.org/nih-collaborators. JF is supported by the 111 Project (No. B18015), the key project of Shanghai Science and Technology (No. 16JC1420402), National Key R&D Program of China (No. 2018YFC1312900), National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC 91630314), Shanghai Municipal Science and Technology Major Project (No. 2018SHZDZX01), and ZJLab. WC is supported by grants from the National Natural Sciences Foundation of China (No. 81701773, 11771010), sponsored by Shanghai Sailing Program (No. 17YF1426200). WC is also sponsored by Natural Science Foundation of Shanghai (No. 18ZR1404400). JZ is supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 61573107), and also sponsored by Natural Science Foundation of Shanghai (No. 17ZR1444200). XYZ is supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81873893). FL is supported by funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81571031, No. 81761128035, No. 81930095, and No. 81701334), Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning (No. 2017ZZ02026, No. 2018BR33, No. 2017EKHWYX−02, and No. GDEK201709), Shanghai Shenkang Hospital Development Center (No. 16CR2025B), Shanghai Municipal Education Commission (No. 20152234), Shanghai Committee of Science and Technology (No. 17XD1403200, No. 19410713500, and No. 18DZ2313505), Shanghai Municipal Science and Technology Major Project (No. 2018SHZDZX01), Guangdong Key Project in "Development of new tools for diagnosis and treatment of Autism" (2018B030335001), Xinhua Hospital of Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine (2018YJRC03, Talent introduction−014, Top talent−201603).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Wei Cheng or Edmund Rolls or Jianfeng Feng.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Cheng, W., Rolls, E., Gong, W. et al. Sleep duration, brain structure, and psychiatric and cognitive problems in children. Mol Psychiatry (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-020-0663-2

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Quick links