A new study indicates that children and adolescents who complain of inadequate sleep have a higher risk of developing anxiety or depression in their later years. The lack of sleep is already associated with other mental concerns such as poor concentration and irritability, but this is the first time that poor sleeping habits have been linked to depression risk. The authors of the study caution parents to monitor their child’s behavior carefully. It may be a classic chicken-and-egg dilemma. Poor sleep could influence psychological health, yet changes in sleeping behavior is also a symptom of depression and anxiety.
The lack of sleep makes a child or adolescent unable to assess situations properly. The body needs to rest, and sleep gives the brain time to go through the day’s experiences and teach a child how to deal with them. Poor sleeping habits affect emotional health and may lead to the child thinking more negative thoughts. Studies show that children who report a lack of sleep have less positive emotions.
Those most at risk are children who have recently experienced a great emotional trauma. This can be the death of a loved one or even transferring schools. It is normal for children and adolescents to undergo a period of grief- in these moments, sleep can be affected. However, if dramatic changes are observed in sleep or eating habits after two continuous weeks, it is heavily advised for the child to see his or her local psychologist.
Jonathan Lauter, M.D., is a certified child and adolescent psychologist whose areas of expertise include depression and anxiety from a neurological perspective. Learn more about Dr. Lauter’s practice here.