Developmental pathways towards mood disorders in adult life: Is there a role for sleep disturbances?

Laura Palagini, Katharina Domschke, Francesco Benedetti, Russell G. Foster, Katharina Wulff, Dieter Riemann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: Mood disorders are among the most prevalent and serious mental disorders and rank high among to the leading global burdens of disease. The developmental psychopathology framework can offer a life course perspective on them thus providing a basis for early prevention and intervention. Sleep disturbances, are considered risk factors for mood disorders across childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Assuming that sleep disturbances may play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of mood disorders from a life course point of view, we reviewed the data on developmental pathways towards mood disorders in adult life in relation to sleep disturbances. Method: From February 2017, a systematic search was conducted in PubMed, PsycINFO and Embase electronic databases for literature on developmental pathways to mood disorders in adult life in relation to sleep disturbances and to 1) pre-natal stress, 2) early brain developmental processes, and 3) temperaments, character and attachment style. Results: Eleven, 54 and 15 articles were respectively selected. Conclusions: Experimental and clinical studies revealed that exposure to prenatal/early life stress results in sleep disturbances such as poor sleep and altered circadian regulation phases and may predict or even precipitate mood disorders in adulthood. Chronic sleep disruption may interfere with neuronal plasticity, connectivity and the developing brain thus contributing to the development of mood disorders. In addition sleep and circadian dysregulations have been shown to be related to those temperaments, character and attachment styles which are considered precursors of mood disorders. Sleep and circadian behaviours may serve as early targets regarding mood disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-132
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Jan 15 2019


  • Character and attachment style
  • Circadian disorders
  • Developmental pathways
  • Early brain developmental processes
  • Insomnia
  • Mood disorders
  • Pre-natal stress
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Temperaments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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