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Insomnia Tied to Depression and Anxiety Among Teens

First Posted: Jul 31, 2014 02:00 AM EDT
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A new study reveals a strong association between insomnia and mental health conditions among teens.

For years, Insomnia was linked to mental health conditions but they were mostly considered as side-effects. Insomnia, the difficulty to sleep or difficulty to stay awake, is caused due to psychiatric disorder. Known as one of the most common sleeping disorder, insomnia is present among 11 percent of the teens (13-16 years).

For the study, researchers at the University of Adelaide interviewed over 300 Australian high school students aged between 12-18 years. The survey was conducted in order to understand the students' sleeping habits, mental health conditions and the time of the day they remained most active ( known as their chronotype).

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

The researchers noticed that insomnia among teens was independently associated with depression, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Those teens who remained very active in the evenings, were more vulnerable to suffer from depression and insomnia. Also, they were more likely to have obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation anxiety and social phobia; although these disorders were not independently associated with insomnia.

"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 said.

The researchers recommend that prevention and treatment efforts for insomnia and depression should be used along with mental health, sleep and eveningness chronotype, apart from the mainstream behavioral approach.

The findings was documented in journal Sleep Medicine. 

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