Sleep, young people and mental health

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A 2014 American Academy of Paediatrics technical reports states that “Chronic sleep loss and associated sleepiness and daytime impairments in adolescence are a serious threat to the academic success, physical and mental health and safety of our nation’s youth and an important public health issue”.

Sleep and mental health
Take, for example, depression: while a depressed young person may sleep less well and /or have altered recall of sleep duration and quality, they may also be disposed to develop depression because of sleep deprivation. There is a known link between sleep loss and increased suicidality in adolescents which is clearly important to be aware of.

Sleep, substance use and risk-taking behaviour
We know that caffeine and alcohol are both causative of sleep problems but also used by individuals to combat the effect of sleep problems (caffeine) and used with increased frequency in those with chronic sleep deprivation (alcohol) which can exacerbate the situation further.

Sleep and neurodevelopmental problems
ADHD has insomnia and fragmented sleep as known associations, but poor sleep duration also causes concentration problems and poor academic performance as well as externalising behaviour and worsening of executive function, therefore worsening or “mimicking” ADHD…and this is before the effects of medications used in ADHD are considered!

Adapted from an article by Dr Sally Hobson, Specialty Community Paediatrician from the Evelina Children’s Secondary Community Sleep Clinic. She will be speaking at the Association of Child and Adolescent Mental Health’s (ACAMH) upcoming Sleep and Mental Health Conference in Edinburgh on 29th September 2019.

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