Depression in Teens Worsens With Sleep Deprivation

Health In Focus   - G J E 4
  • Depression is more severe in teens with co-morbid sleep disturbances
  • Resolution of sleep deprivation aids in lowering intensity of depression
There are times when people feel sad, but that feeling is soon replaced with other emotions as time progresses. Depression, however, is a severe condition in which the individual is unable to focus on simple tasks and is constantly distracted with very low self-esteem. This is a serious problem and requires medical attention to help resolve it.

Link between Depression and Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation and depression are inter-linked with some people showing signs of depression that can lead to difficulty in sleeping while some others showing depression due to lack of sufficient sleep. Two significant studies, however, have now shown that teen sleep disturbances increase depression.
Depression in Teens Worsens With Sleep Deprivation
Depression in Teens Worsens With Sleep Deprivation

Study investigator Ellie McGlinchey, postdoctoral research fellow, Columbia University Medical Center, New York City says "We know that there are affective consequences of sleep deprivation in adults, and sleep deprivation in adolescents - who are already vulnerable - might exacerbate their emotional vulnerabilities as well". Ellie also wanted to study the effect of reducing sleep disturbances and identifying its effect on depression among teens.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy Study

In the first study, 63 adolescents were included and it involved comparing the effects of interpersonal psychotherapy and normal treatment measures. Treatment effects were analyzed based on self reporting by the study participants on the effect on insomnia and depression. The participants said they had at least mild sleep disturbances over a period of two weeks with a reduction in sleep disturbances when compared with baseline.

‘A good night's sleep is a must for good physical and mental health of teenagers as disturbances in sleep can aggravate the risk of depression.’
40% of the study participants continued to have sleep disturbances at the end of the study. Statistical analysis found that for an increase in sleep disturbances by a point, there was 1.89 point increase in depression score (Becks Depression Inventory).

Treatment for Adolescent Depression Study

In the second trial, 439 adolescents were included in the study and were treated with:
  • Cognitive behavior therapy
  • Fluoxetine therapy
  • Cognitive behavior therapy and Fluoxetine therapy
  • Placebo
66% of the study participants had sleep deprivation at least for 2 weeks. Sleep deprivation improved when compared with baseline but 43% of the participants continued to have sleep deprivation at the end of the study.

In this study, for every point increase in sleep deprivation, there was a 2.30 point increased in depression score (Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale).

These studies find a significant increase in depression among adolescents with sleep deprivation and those sleep disturbances should be reduced to aid in the psychological well-being of teens.

Use of Drugs

The use of hypnotic drugs that are used to aid sleep in adults cannot be used for adolescents as they affect brain development in adolescents. Anti-depressants have also been found to make the condition worse.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavior therapy should be used to improve sleep in adolescents to lower their risk for depression. Teenagers are prone to sleep disturbances due to:
  • Packed daily schedules that include intense school work and after school classes
  • Studying for exams that include staying up late into the night
  • Texting or calling friends
  • The hormone melatonin secretion occurs later in the night for adolescents when compared with kids and adults, urging them to sleep later at night and wake up later during the day.
  • A cold that blocks the nose and makes it difficult to sleep
  • Uncomfortable sleep environment, too hot or too cold
  • Gaming
  • Noisy roommates
  • Restless leg syndrome - Itching, tingling or burning sensation in the legs can affect sleep.
  • Nightmares - Although these are less frequent than in kids, adolescent sleep can also be disturbed by nightmares.
An average person requires 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day and a reduction in the number of hours can lead to sleep deprivation. Apart from the number of hours of sleep, the quality of sleep is equally important. There are 5 stages of sleep:
  • Stage 1 and 2 are the initial stages of sleep when eye movements slow down and then stop, heart rhythm slows down and so does respiratory rate.
  • Stage 3 and 4 are the refreshing stages of sleep when the body secretes hormones that are required for the growth and repair of tissues.
  • REM-Rapid Eye Movement - This is the final stage of sleep when the heart beats faster and the breathing rate improves. A person has clear dreams during this stage.
Sleep is a very important aspect of leading a healthy life and adolescents are often sleep deprived as they become consumed with increased study schedules and interaction with friends. This can lead to depression, which affects the quality of their performance, both in academics as well as in daily life. In order to avoid this, a good night's sleep should be actively advocated to improve the psychological health of adolescents.

  1. Depression and Sleep
Source: Medindia

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