This proposal is a revised submission of a project whose principal aim is to assess prospectively the association between reduced sleep and depressed mood. As many as 20% of college students suffer from depressed mood, and mood problems are considered among the top 5 impediments to academic performance. We propose that short sleep may be a precipitating factor for depressed mood in young adults, a link mediated by the serotonin system. Depression and short sleep have both been associated with insensitivity of the serotonin 1A receptor. Indeed, depression is favored by certain polymorphisms of the serotonin 1A receptor gene and serotonin transporter gene, and these variations may indicate vulnerability for depression or depressed mood in the context of chronically restricted sleep. Study 1. A prospective study follows students before college through the first semester of their freshman collegiate year in several annual cohorts from a residential Ivy League university and a small local chiefly "commuter" college. Students'pre-collegiate reported total sleep time will be used to stratify healthy, nondepressed young people in the collegiate samples. Daily sleep/wake diaries completed on the web, along with genotyping for the serotonin "vulnerability" markers will be examined in students found with and without depressed mood using the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale in the eighth week of the college semester. Symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions will be assessed with the Psychiatric Diagnostic Screening Questionnaire (PDSQ) at three time points (pre- collegiate, enrollment, and 8 weeks). Markers of the circadian timing system and alcohol use data will also be examined, along with family and life-time history of depression, childhood trauma, and stress-related susceptibility to insomnia (in contrast to `volitional'short sleep). Additional psychiatric co-morbid symptoms will be assessed using the PDSQ. Study 2. A second study will assess the sensitivity of the serotonin 1A receptor with a pharmacological (buspirone) challenge, in which blunting of the hypothermic and cortisol responses are expected in the students who have depressed mood and short sleep, particularly when associated with specific serotonin transporter and/or 1A receptor polymorphisms. This test will help to confirm whether an association of depressed mood and short sleep is related to altered serotonin sensitivity. Study 3. Sleep structure will be analyzed in a subgroup of participants from Study 1 to examine whether sleep structure changes previously associated with major depressive disorder are associated with depressed mood, short sleep, and genetic vulnerability.

Public Health Relevance

This project will examine whether chronically reduced sleep can lead to depressed mood in college students, which is a serious concern as an impediment to academic performance and a risk for suicide. These studies will examine whether students are susceptible to depression if they have the combination of a certain genetic background and then get too little sleep;additional tests will examine whether the association of too little sleep and depressed mood is related the serotonin system and whether sleep structure is affected. Such knowledge can help target prevention for the development of depressed mood in young people undergoing a major stressful life event.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Neural Basis of Psychopathology, Addictions and Sleep Disorders Study Section (NPAS)
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Meinecke, Douglas L
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Emma Pendleton Bradley Hospital
East Providence
United States
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Orzech, Kathryn M; Acebo, Christine; Seifer, Ronald et al. (2014) Sleep patterns are associated with common illness in adolescents. J Sleep Res 23:133-42
Carskadon, Mary A (2011) Sleep in adolescents: the perfect storm. Pediatr Clin North Am 58:637-47