Adolescent depression, anxiety linked to insomnia


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Alvaro PK. Sleep Med. 2014;doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2014.03.019.

  • August 5, 2014

Depression and generalized anxiety disorder can predict insomnia, according to recent study findings published in Sleep Medicine.

“People with insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep for as long as they need to,” Pasquale K. Alvaro, a PhD student in the school of psychology at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said in a press release. “This is a widespread sleep disorder among the general public, and in most countries about 11% of teens aged 13 to 16 years experience insomnia at some stage.”

Pasquale Alvaro

Pasquale K. Alvaro

Alvaro and colleagues evaluated 318 adolescents aged 12 to 18 years to determine the link between insomnia, depression and anxiety disorders.

“Having insomnia in addition to anxiety or depression can further intensify the problems being experienced with each individual disorder,” Alvaro said. “It can lead to such problems as alcohol and drug misuse during adolescence.”

Past sleep or mental health problems were reported by almost 25% of participants. Previous treatment for sleep or mental health problems were reported by 17%. Other medical issues were reported by 20%; 14% of whom reported previous or ongoing treatment for those issues. The most common problem was insomnia (11.19%) followed by major depressive disorder (8.39%).

Depression and insomnia were independently associated with each other. Similarly, insomnia was independently linked to generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder but not with obsessive compulsive disorder, separation anxiety or social phobia.

“These findings suggest that the ‘eveningness’ chronotype — being more active in the evenings — is an independent risk factor for insomnia and depression,” Alvaro said. “This is important because adolescents tend to develop a preference for evenings, which sometimes becomes a syndrome whereby they keep delaying going to sleep. … Based on our evidence, we believe that prevention and treatment efforts for insomnia and depression should consider this combination of mental health, sleep, and the eveningness chronotype, in addition to current mainstream behavioral approaches. Prevention and treatment efforts for anxiety subtypes should also consider focusing on insomnia and depression.”

Disclosure: See the study for a complete list of the researchers’ relevant financial disclosures.

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