‘Self‐reported sleep patterns and quality amongst adolescents: cross‐sectional and prospective associations with anxiety and depression’ – video abstract

Video abstract from Dr. Faith Orchard on her paper in JCPP on ‘Self‐reported sleep patterns and quality amongst adolescents: cross‐sectional and prospective associations with anxiety and depression’.

Authors; Faith Orchard, Alice M. Gregory, Michael Gradisar, Shirley Reynolds

First published: 17 June 2020


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Hi.  My name is Faith Orchard, and I’m currently working as a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sussex.  Although, at the time of publication of this paper, I was with the University of Reading.


Today, I’m here to give you a brief overview of the paper authored by myself and my colleagues, Alice Gregory, Michael Gradisar, and Shirley Reynolds.  The paper is titled Self-Reported Sleep Patterns and Quality amongst Adolescents, Cross Sectional and Prospective Associations with Anxiety and Depression, and this has been published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry as part of their special issue on sleep.

Sleep problems are common in adolescents and are frequently comorbid with both anxiety and depression.  There’s a growing literature which suggests that there is a prospective relationship between sleep and psychopathology and this includes evidence that sleep interventions can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.  However, little is known about the specific types of sleep problems that occur amongst adolescents with anxiety and depression and whether these specific sleeping problems are involved in the longitudinal relationship between sleep, anxiety and depression.

To try to address these gaps in the literature, we examined data from the Avon Longitudinal Study in Parents and Children, ASPAC, a population-based birth cohort study of children born in 1991 and 1992.  ASPAC has collected extensive data on a broad range of developmentally-relevant measures.  The study is still going and they’re collecting new data on the participants who are now heading towards their 30s.  For our paper, we explored data from a sub-set of participants, who took part in a clinical assessment at age 15.  During this assessment, self-report measures were collected on sleep patterns and quality.  By this, I mean the timings of sleep as well as subjective report sleeping difficulties.  They also collected diagnostic data of anxiety and depression.

At this age 15 time point, there were just over 5,000 adolescents with data on sleep and diagnoses.  We were also able to look at subsequent data on symptoms and diagnoses of anxiety and depression at ages 17, 21 and 24.  The results can be described in two parts, the cross-sectional findings and the longitudinal findings.  So, let’s start with the key points from the cross-sectional analyses.  At age 15, we found that adolescents with depression reported difficulties with both sleep patterns and sleep quality compared to adolescents with no anxiety or depression.  This included a later bedtime, less total sleep time, as well as difficulty falling asleep, getting up and feeling tired during the day.

Adolescents with anxiety didn’t experience problems with their sleep patterns, but they did report difficulties with sleep quality, specifically taking longer to fall asleep, finding it hard to get up on school days and feeling tired during the day.  In the longitudinal analyses, we found that a range of sleep variables at age 15, including both patterns and quality predicted both the severity of anxiety and depression symptoms and the diagnoses of anxiety and depressive disorders at ages 17, 21 and 24 years.  The specific variables included total sleep time on school nights, as well as daytime sleepiness and night time waking.

The findings from our paper provide further insight into the nature of sleep problems amongst adolescents with anxiety and depression, and the prospective relationship between sleep disturbance and future psychopathology.  Although this paper improved the literature by addressing some of these gaps, it’s important to note that there were limitations as well.  This included a mostly white British sample and a slightly lower than average proportion of anxiety and depression.  Furthermore, sleep measures were self-report and the literature would benefit from more research drawing on objective measures of sleep.  However, even with these limitations in mind, the data do suggest that sleep interventions should be explored as a way of preventing future anxiety and depression.  Prevention activities may be particularly well-suited to schools, where large numbers of young people are likely to be presenting with sleep problems.

Future research would also benefit from a better understanding of the cross-sectional differences between anxiety and depression.

Thank you so much for listening today.  I hope you found this video abstract informative and please do get in touch if you’re interested in our work.

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