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Night owl teens not such happy campers


While teens are famous for being morning grouches, parents and clinicians have been put on the alert for those that have trouble getting to sleep at night.

A South Australian study has found that teenagers who habitually delay going to sleep at night are at increased risk of developing insomnia, anxiety and depression, underlining the importance of efforts to encourage changes in sleeping behaviour.

A survey of more than 300 South Australian high school students has found that those more active in the evening were at greater risk of a range of disorders including insomnia, depression, separation anxiety, social phobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Adelaide University researcher, PhD candidate Pasquale Alvaro said that around 11 per cent of teenagers experienced insomnia at some point, and he found that this raised the risk that they could develop depression, generalised anxiety disorder and suffer panic attacks.

“These findings suggest that the ‘eveningness’ chronotype – being more active in the evenings – is an independent risk factor for insomnia and depression,” Mr Alvaro said. “This is important because adolescents tend to develop a preference for evenings, which sometimes becomes a syndrome, whereby they keep delaying going to sleep.”

He said there could be serious ramifications.

“Having insomnia in addition to anxiety or depression can further intensify the problems being experienced with each individual disorder.

“It can lead to such problems as alcohol and drug misuse during adolescence.”

Mr Alvaro said efforts to prevent and treat teen insomnia and depression should take into account the links between mental health, sleep and the tendency of teens to stay up late at night.

Adrian Rollins