Teen Insomnia Could be Related to Anxiety and Depression

More and more scientific evident is revealing a link between sleep-related disorders, anxiety, and depression. This was recently confirmed by an Australian study done on the amount of sleep that teens get and how that’s related to mental illness. The University of Adelaide surveyed 300 high school students to better understand their sleep habits and mental health condition.


The study revealed that those teens who stay up late tend to have a greater risk for insomnia and depression. Furthermore, the results of the study, which were published in the journal Sleep Medicine, may facilitate improving the clinical treatment of teens who experience sleep and mental health issues.


Insomnia is the most common medical complaint given to doctors by teens and adults. Typically, insomnia – the experience of not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep – is either the result of something simple, like drinking too much caffeine during the day or having too many responsibilities. Or insomnia could be a result of a larger problem. For instance, it could be an indication of a medical disorder or a psychological illness, such as depression or anxiety. Some of the symptoms of insomnia include:


•          Exhausting sleep

•          Difficulty falling asleep despite being tired

•          Waking up frequently during the night

•          Trouble getting back to sleep when awakened

•          Difficulty concentrating during the day

•          Daytime drowsiness, fatigue, or irritability

•          Waking up too early in the morning

•          Relying on sleeping pills or alcohol to fall asleep


Insomnia is a widespread sleep disorder among the general public around the world. For teens, about 11% of adolescents ages 13-16 years of age experience insomnia at some point in their lives. According to Pasquale Alvaro, one of the primary researchers in the study, insomnia “can lead to such problems as alcohol and drug misuse during adolescence.” Alvaro’s study found that the presence of insomnia was independently linked with depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder among teens.


There is a growing awareness among the scientific community within the field of psychology that insomnia, depression, and anxiety disorders are linked with each other, and these disorders contain overlapping neurobiological, psychological, and social risk factors. In fact, having insomnia in addition to anxiety or depression can further intensify both the sleep issues as well as the mental illness.


For instance, one of the symptoms of teen depression is sleep disturbance, meaning that a teen will either oversleep (hypersomnia) or they will not be able to sleep at all (insomnia). Of course, not all cases of teen insomnia are due to teen anxiety or depression. However, it is clear that there is a relationship between an adolescent’s inability to sleep and their mental health condition. Also, not all cases of depression or anxiety will include an experience of insomnia.


However, the study revealed that teens who were more active in the evenings were more likely to have depression and/or insomnia. This group was also more likely to have obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation anxiety, and social phobia, although these disorders were often not independently linked with insomnia. This is important for clinicians and pediatricians to be aware of as they encounter adolescents who might be struggling with insomnia, anxiety, and/or depression.


Teen depression, or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is considered to be a medical illness that includes symptoms of persistent sadness, loss of interest in daily activities, occupational and educational impairment, along with eventual emotional and physical problems. Major Depressive Disorder usually requires long-term treatment, including psychotherapy and medication. Also, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a diagnosis given to those teens who experience excessive and irrational worry for at least six months. The excessive anxiety interferes with the ability to function at school, have healthy friendships, and usually consists of extreme worry even for everyday matters. Other forms of anxiety disorders among teens include Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Phobias.


When considering these diagnoses, mental health professionals as well as doctors might keep in mind the presence of any sleep disturbances when treating teens with anxiety and/or depression.




Nauert, R. (2014). Teen Sleepless Nights Linked with Depression and Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/07/31/teen-sleepless-nights-linked-with-depression-and-anxiety/73082.html