Documenting a “twofold to fivefold” increase in personal problems among adolescents with persistent sleeplessness, public health researchers at The University of Texas say they have completed the first prospective study demonstrating the negative impact of chronic insomnia on 11 to 17 year olds.
More than one fourth of the youths surveyed had one or more symptoms of insomnia and almost half of these youngsters had chronic conditions. Findings appear in the March issue of the “Journal of Adolescent Health” and are based on interviews with 3,134 adolescents in metropolitan Houston.
“Insomnia is both common and chronic among adolescents,” wrote lead author Robert E. Roberts. “The data indicate that the burden of insomnia is comparable to that of other psychiatric disorders such as mood, anxiety, disruptive behaviour and substance abuse disorders. Chronic insomnia severely impacts future health and functioning of youths.”
Researchers measured 14 aspects of personal wellbeing and found that adolescents with chronic insomnia were much more likely to have problems with drug use, depression, school work, jobs and perceived health.
The symptom criteria for insomnia includes difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, early morning awakening and non-restorative sleep over the previous four weeks.
In the initial screening, 27 percent had one of more symptoms of insomnia, 7 percent had one or more symptoms of insomnia plus daytime fatigue or sleepiness or both, and 5 percent met the clinical diagnosis criteria, which attempts to rule out other psychiatric disorders, as well as the effects of alcohol, drugs or medication, which can be confused with chronic insomnia.
Other studies indicate that chronic insomnia among adolescents can be caused by behavioral and emotional issues, Roberts said.
Roberts said adolescents with chronic insomnia were more likely to seek medical care. “These data suggest that primary care settings might provide a venue for screening and early intervention of adolescent insomnia,” he said.
The study is titled “Chronic Insomnia and Its Negative Consequences for Health and Functioning of Adolescents: A 12-Month Prospective Study.”