New Study Links Adolescent Depression, Insomnia, and Anxiety

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The association between psychiatric illness and sleep disorders is well-documented and this week a study put more evidence to the idea that depression and generalized sleep disorder can predict insomnia.

Sad Child“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.”

For the study, which was published in Sleep Medicine, Alvaro and colleagues evaluated 318 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 to assess 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.”

Out of the participants, 25% reported experiencing sleep or mental health problems in the past, and 17% reported previous treatment for sleep of mental health problems. Other medical issues were reported bu 20%. The most common issue reported was insomnia (11.19%), which was followed by major depressive disorder (8.39%).

Depression and insomnia were independently linked, while insomnia was 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.”

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