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‘Eveningness’ is linked with insomnia in teens.

Sleep, or a lack of it, affects many aspects of mental health. Researchers are beginning to understand the complex relationships between sleep, anxiety, and depression. A study from the University of Adelaide (UA) in Australia investigated how sleep habits are connected to anxiety and depression in teenagers. Teens who are more active in the evening are more likely to have insomnia and depression. The findings suggest that sleep is a vital part of mental health treatments, especially for teenagers.

Researcher Pasquale Alvaro, PhD student at the UA School of Psychology, surveyed more than 300 Australian high school students aged 12 to 18. Alvaro queried the teens about their sleep habits and mental health. He also used the surveys to determine the teens’ chronotype, or the time of day when a person is most active.

The presence of insomnia was independently linked to depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder in teens. Teens with an ‘eveningness’ chronotype—a tendency to be more active during the evening—had a higher risk of insomnia and depression. Eveningness is a risk factor for insomnia and depression. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation anxiety, and social phobia were also correlated with the eveningness chronotype.

Teenagers tend to have a preference for evening activity. This preference can lead to teens delaying sleep.

“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,” concluded Alvaro.

This research is published in the journal Sleep Medicine.

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