Sleep Linked to Depressed Moods in Adolescents

MARCH 20, 2020
Kenny Walter
Initiating sleep can be difficult for adolescents, but doing so could reduce the risk of depressed moods and negative thinking.

A team based in Australia, led by Iris Huang, Flinders University, examined the relationship between difficulty initiating sleep and depressed moods with whether it is mediated by repetitive negative thinking.

The investigators also examined the role of perfectionism in the study.

The study included 393 adolescents between 14-20 who were surveyed through an online questionnaire that assessed difficulty initiating sleep, repetitive negative thinking, perfectionism, and depressed mood.

The investigators found repetitive negative thinking fully mediated the link between difficulty initiating sleep and depressed mood. Additionally, this relationship was moderated by perfectionisms, while specifically the relationship between repetitive negative thinking and depressed mood was stronger among more perfectionistic adolescents.

“These findings highlight that repetitive negative thinking is significantly associated with both difficulty initiating sleep and depressed mood, supporting the conceptualization of repetitive negative thinking as a transdiagnostic process,” the authors wrote.

Individual differences in perfectionism could also amplify the relationship between repetitive negative thinking and mood.

“The role of repetitive negative thinking and perfectionism in explaining the link between sleep onset problems and depressed mood has important clinical implications through providing possible treatment targets,” the authors wrote.

International studies have shown that depression affects between 3-8% of adolescents, where it is often recurring and could continue to develop into more severe depressive disorders during adulthood.

For teenagers, depression can cause poor concentration, a loss of interest in schoolwork, and difficulties in peer relationships.

How much a child sleeps could accurately tell whether or not they will develop a psychiatric disorder later on in life.

A team led by Bror M. Ranum, Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), examined the long-term and bidirectional link between the duration of sleep and symptoms of psychiatric disorders for school-aged children ages 6, 8, 10, and 12.

The population-based cohort study included 799 children that participated in the Trondheim Early Secure Study, where all time-invariant confounders and baseline levels of study variables were accounted for. The investigators conducted a representative, stratified random sample of children in the study born between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2004.

In the study, short sleep duration was prospectively tied to symptoms of psychiatric disorders only at younger ages, but not older ages. There was no evidence found for the opposite direction of association.

“This study found an association between short sleep duration and increased risk of future occurrence of emotional disorder symptoms in both boys and girls and between reduced sleep and behavioral disorder symptoms in boys,” the authors wrote. “These results suggest that improving sleep in children may help protect against the development of symptoms of common psychiatric disorders and may be advantageous in the treatment of such disorders.

Shorter sleep duration at age 6 years (β [unstandardized regression coefficient] = −.44; 95% CI, −.80-−.08; P = .02) and 8 years (β = −0.47; 95% CI, −.83-−.11; P = .01) accurately forecasted symptoms of emotional disorders 2 years later. 

However, shorter sleep duration at 8-years old β = −0.65; 95% CI, −1.22-−.08; P = .03) and 10 years (β = −0.58; 95% CI, −1.07-−.08; P = .02) was associated with symptoms of behavioral disorders 2 years later among boys, but not among girls at age 8 years (β = −.14; 95% CI, − .52-.24; P = .48) or 10 years (β = −.05; 95% CI, = −.49-.40; P = .84). 

The study, “The roles of repetitive negative thinking and perfectionism in explaining the relationship between sleep onset difficulties and depressed mood in adolescents,” was published online in Sleep Health.

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