Linking genetic foundations of sleep disturbances to personality traits: a study of mid-life twins

Zlatan Krizan, Colin Freilich, Robert F. Krueger, Frank D. Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Risk of sleep disturbances depends on individuals’ personality, and a large body of evidence indicates that individuals prone to neuroticism, impulsivity, and (low) extraversion are more likely to experience them. Origins of these associations are unclear, but common genetic background may play an important role. Participants included 405 twin pairs (mean age of 54 years; 59% female) from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) who reported on their personality traits (broad and specific), as well as sleep disturbances (problems with falling asleep, staying asleep, waking early, and feeling unrested). Uni- and bivariate biometric decompositions evaluated contributions of genetic and environmental factors to associations between personality and poor sleep, as well as unique contributions from individual traits. Neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness, and aggressiveness were the strongest phenotypic predictors of poor sleep. Genetic sources of covariance were about twice as large as non-shared environmental sources, and only shared genetic background accounted for links between aggressiveness and poor sleep. Neuroticism and extraversion accounted for most of the genetic overlap between personality and sleep disturbances. The findings shed light on developmental antecedents of ties between personality and poor sleep, suggesting a larger role of common genetic background than idiosyncratic life experiences. The results also suggest that emotion-related traits play the most important role for poor sleep, compared to other personality traits, and may partially account for genetic associations with other traits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13903
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Journal of Sleep Research published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Sleep Research Society.


  • aggression
  • insomnia
  • positive affect
  • twin
  • ‘Big Five’

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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