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Insomnia tied to Depression and Anxiety in Teens

Update Date: Jul 30, 2014 04:09 PM EDT

Insomnia is a sleeping disorder characterized by having difficulties staying or falling asleep throughout the night, which could lead to severe sleep deprivation. In a new study, researchers examined the effects that insomnia has on teens' mental health. They discovered that teens suffering from this disorder are more likely to experience anxiety and depression.

"People with insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep for as long as they need to. This is a widespread sleep disorder among the general public, and in most countries about 11% of teens aged 13-16 years experience insomnia at some stage," researcher Pasquale Alvaro, a PhD student from the School of Psychology at the University of Adelaide in Australia stated according to Medical Xpress. "There is a growing awareness among the scientific community that insomnia, depression and anxiety disorders are linked with each other, and these disorders contain overlapping neurobiological, psychological, and social risk factors."

For this study, Alvaro interviewed over 300 high school students between the ages of 12 and 18. The surveys collected information on the adolescents' sleeping habits, mental health status and daytime activity levels, particularly when they were the most active. Based on the self-reports, Alvaro concluded that teen insomnia was independently tied to depression, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

The study also found that adolescents who were more active during the evenings were more likely to suffer from depression and/or insomnia. On top of these conditions, Alvaro reported that this group of teens was also more likely to have obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation anxiety and social phobia.

"These findings suggest that the 'eveningness' chronotype - being more active in the evenings - is an independent risk factor for insomnia and depression. This is important because adolescents tend to develop a preference for evenings, which sometimes becomes a syndrome whereby they keep delaying going to sleep," Alvaro stated. "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."

The study, "The independent relationships between insomnia, depression, subtypes of anxiety, and chronotype during adolescence," was published in the journal Sleep Medicine

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