Reduced sleep could lead to mental illness in youth. Internet addiction could be part of the problem, an Australian study reveals.
Young adults who habitually sleep fewer than five hours a night are three times more likely than others to become psychologically distressed. Each hour of sleep lost was linked to a 14 per cent higher risk of distress.
The study surveyed about 20,000 17- to 24-year-olds across New South Wales over a period of 18 months.
Professor Nick Glozier of the George Institute of Global Health, lead author of the study, says they found a very strong association between reduced hours of sleep and mental health problems.
"When you get down to the very low levels of hours of sleep like five or six, about 50 per cent of those kids have quite significant mental health problems. That is the first thing.
The second thing and probably the most important is that if you are one of those kids with mental health problems so if you are a adolescent, young adults, then the chances of that health problem becoming chronic and persistent is actually much greater the fewer hours sleep you get."
When Ashley Hall of ABC News asked him whether sleeplessness was a cause of the mental health problems or a symptom, Nick Glozier replied, "If you have got mental health problems, it looks like the more sleep you get, the better quality sleep you get, the more likely you are to not have your problem become chronic.
"If however, you are mentally well, if you don't have mental health problems, then it is only that group of kids with really, really short amounts of sleep who appear to have a problem with a new onset of a disorder later on."
Professor Ian Hickie, the executive director of the Brain and Mind Institute at the University of Sydney and a contributor to the stud, told ABC News, " There's been a real concern also about changing sleep patterns amongst young people in recent years. They are not getting enough sleep and that may actually constitute a risk factor to mental health problems and particularly to the persistence of those problems over time.
"You need to get enough physical activity during the day and you need to be physically active, you need to be alert and engaged so that you can then sleep well but you also need to regulate sleep and a common practice now staying up till two or three in the morning in association with using the Internet and other technologies and then having to rise early for school or work and having reduced sleep clearly has adverse impacts on your mental health and if you run into trouble and you have got that sleep pattern, you are likely to stay unwell.
"So this is an area in which a good deal of public education and preventative work could easily go forward."
The findings have been published today in the journal Sleep.
All experts agree that parents should do their best to make sure their young adult offspring get a decent night's sleep.