The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.
For many kids, the period between childhood and early adolescence can be difficult.
This transitional period is commonly known as “pre-adolescence” and can be a vulnerable time for the development of mental health problems, like anxiety and depression.
So many of our young adolescents need support to navigate this time as they develop. Improving a young person’s sleep behavior could be one tool to do this.
Adequate, good-quality sleep is crucial for mental health and well-being for everyone—from infancy to old age. On the other hand, experiencing sleep problems, like insomnia, recurrent nightmares and breathing problems during sleep are associated with poorer mental health.
A new study published recently in JAMA Psychiatry set out to investgate the role of a range of sleep problems on the emotional and behavioral well-being of pre-adolescents.
Researchers analyzed data from a longitudinal study of more than 10,000 children and their parents or caregivers, which assessed children aged 9 to 11 and again two years later when they were 11 to 13. Parents and caregivers were asked about their child’s typical sleep patterns, sleep problems and any changes to sleeping, as well as any emotional and behavioral problems they were experiencing.
The study found that one in four pre-adolescents experienced very low levels of sleep disturbance, while the majority (about two in five pre-adolescents, or 42%) experienced moderate levels of a range of problems. A minority experienced difficulties specifically in falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night (about one in seven, or 16%), or high levels of problems in general (17%).
When the adolescents were assessed two years later, there was a marked shift in the prevalence of sleep problems experienced by adolescents overall.
The number of young teenagers having difficulties specifically falling and staying asleep now made up one-third of the sample and one-third experienced low levels of problems. In contrast, one in five experienced moderate levels of “mixed” problems (down from 42%).
Notably, when adolescents experienced an increase in their sleep problems, they also experienced increases in both emotional and behavioral problems.
This effect was much stronger for emotional problems (like feelings of anxiety or a depressed mood), highlighting the importance of getting a good night’s sleep for adolescents’ emotional well-being.
When adolescents’ sleep problems improved, so too did their mental health.
The findings indicate that treating sleep problems could be an effective way to improve mental health symptoms in young teens, and highlights the importance of good sleep for their mental well-being and may have long-lasting benefits throughout adolescence and beyond.