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More Sleep Decreases Depression in Adolescents

Posted Jan 04 2010 12:00am

I like this article simply because, like many others I've linked to, it documents the important role adequate sleep plays in the overall functioning of people.  In this case, the researchers examined the rates of depression and suicidal thinking among teens whose bedtimes were set either 10 pm and earlier, or 12 am and later.  The two groups differed in both rates of depression and suicidal thinking, with those sleeping more showing better mood functioning.  From the article:

Lead author James E. Gangwisch, PhD, assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, N.Y., said that the results strengthen the argument that short sleep duration could play a role in the etiology of depression.

"Our results are consistent with the theory that inadequate sleep is a risk factor for depression, working with other risk and protective factors through multiple possible causal pathways to the development of this mood disorder," said Gangwisch. "Adequate quality sleep could therefore be a preventative measure against depression and a treatment for depression."

Some other data:

Seven percent of participants (1,050) were found to have depression using the Centers for Epidemiologic Study-Depression Scale, and 13 percent (2,038) reported that they seriously thought about committing suicide during the past 12 months. Depression and suicidal ideation were associated with later parental set bedtime, shorter sleep duration, self-perception of not getting enough sleep, female sex, older age and lower self-perception of how much parents care.

The article does not go into detail regarding whether other variables were controlled, such as whether parents who set earlier bed times (which the article suggested was the primary method ensuring the most sleep) also engaged in other activities that might also reduce the risk of depression.  However, the accumulating data seems pretty clear: better sleep means better functioning.  I don't doubt this applies to teens who typically require more sleep than an adult anyway (nine hours per night is recommended).

What I've encountered more than a few times since becoming a parent are other parents who indicate they've had difficulty getting their kids to adhere to bed time schedules.  These are not adolescents we are talking about; we are talking about kids as young as three or four.  In terms of the other variables I wondered about before, this would be one of them.  If a parent can't instill (for whatever reason) a habit of going to bed at a healthy, reasonable hour when their kids are young, getting an adolescent to comply with bed time rules will be exponentially more difficult.  On the other hand, there may also be variables associated with the compliance on the part of the kids.  Lots of fodder for further research!

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