Schizophrenia liability shares common molecular genetic risk factors with sleep duration and nightmares in childhood

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Background: Sleep abnormalities are common in schizophrenia, often appearing before psychosis onset; however, the mechanisms behind this are uncertain. We investigated whether genetic risk for schizophrenia is associated with sleep phenotypes.
Methods: We used data from 6,058 children and 2,302 mothers from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). We examined associations between a polygenic risk score for schizophrenia and sleep duration in both children and mothers, and nightmares in children, along with genetic covariances between these traits.
Results: Polygenic risk for schizophrenia was associated with increased risk of nightmares (OR=1.07, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.14, p=0.02) in children, and also with less sleep (β=-44.52, 95% CI: −88.98, −0.07; p=0.05). We observed a similar relationship with sleep duration in mothers, although evidence was much weaker (p=0.38). Finally, we found evidence of genetic covariance between schizophrenia risk and reduced sleep duration in children and mothers, and between schizophrenia risk and nightmares in children.
Conclusions: These molecular genetic results support recent findings from twin analysis that show genetic overlap between sleep disturbances and psychotic-like experiences. They also show, to our knowledge for the first time, a genetic correlation between schizophrenia liability and risk of nightmares in childhood.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalWellcome Open Research
Issue number15
Early online date25 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

The acceptance date for this record is provisional and based upon the month of publication for the article.

Structured keywords



  • polygenic risk
  • genetic correlation
  • schizophrenia
  • sleep
  • childhood


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  • HPC (High Performance Computing) Facility

    Polly E Eccleston (Other), Simon H Atack (Other), D A G Williams (Manager), Sadaf R Alam (Manager) & Steven A Chapman (Manager)

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