Study Title:

Teen Sleep Problems, Depression, and Substance Abuse

Study Abstract

Study Objective:

To evaluate the association between adolescent insomnia and mental health during adolescence and young adulthood.


Cross-sectional and prospective study.


School and in home.


Nationally based population sample of 4494 adolescents, 12 to 18 years old at baseline (mean = 15.83 years), with 3582 young adults, 18 to 25 years old (mean = 21.25 years) at 6- to 7-year follow-up.


Self-report measures of mental health.


Insomnia symptoms were reported by 9.4% of the adolescents. Cross-sectionally, adolescent insomnia symptoms were associated with use of alcohol, cannabis, and drugs other than cannabis; depression; suicide ideation; and suicide attempts (all P values < 0.01) after controlling for sex. Prospectively, insomnia symptoms during adolescence were a significant risk factor for depression diagnosis (odds ratio = 2.3) in young adulthood after controlling for sex and baseline depression.


This study is the first to longitudinally evaluate insomnia symptoms during adolescence as a risk factor for mental health problems in young adulthood. The findings indicate that insomnia is a prevalent problem for adolescents and argue for future treatment-outcome studies to evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of various insomnia interventions in this age group.

From press release:

A study in the Oct. 1 issue of the journal Sleep shows that adolescent insomnia symptoms are associated with depression, suicide ideation and attempts, and the use of alcohol, cannabis and other drugs such as cocaine.

Findings suggest that the presence of insomnia in adolescents increases the risk of developing mental health problems and also may increase the severity of these problems. Results indicate that adolescents who had symptoms of insomnia were 2.3 times more likely to develop depression in early adulthood than adolescents without symptoms of insomnia. Specifically, at baseline, the insomnia group was more likely to use alcohol, cannabis, and non-cannabis drugs, and was more likely to suffer from depression, suicide thoughts, and suicide attempts. The insomnia group also had a greater risk of developing new incidences of depression and suicide attempts after excluding participants who suffered from these specific psychopathologies at baseline.

When excluding participants who endorsed any mental health problem at baseline, the insomnia group was significantly more likely to develop incident depression. In addition, gender differences emerged for alcohol use, cannabis use, non-cannabis drug use, and depression. Independently of insomnia status, males were significantly more likely to endorse alcohol use, cannabis use, and the use of other drugs, while females were twice as likely to develop depression.

"Previous research in adults has found similar results to this study," said principal investigator and lead author Brandy M. Roane, MS, a doctoral student at the University of North Texas. "The current study suggests adolescents with insomnia are more prone to developing mental disorders, specifically depression."
Insomnia symptoms were reported by 9.4 percent of the adolescents in the study. Information discovered during this study could potentially provide parents, educators and mentors with a sign of a risk factor for the development of mental health issues.

The study involved 4,494 adolescents between 12 and 18 years of age at the beginning of the study, and 3,582 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 years in a six-to-seven year follow up. One-hundred and forty-five U.S. middle, junior and high schools were selected to participate based on size, school type, census region, level of urbanization, percentage of Caucasian and African-American students, grade span and curriculum. Health-related variables such as height, weight, pubertal development, mental health status, and chronic and disabling conditions were obtained through in-home interviews and self-report.

Adolescents who reported having trouble falling asleep every day or almost every day were categorized as having insomnia symptoms. Binge drinking was defined as drinking five or more alcoholic beverages in a row, and suicide ideation was based on whether or not a participant had endorsed having thoughts of suicide in the last year.

Study Information

Brandy M. Roane, and Daniel J. Taylor.
Adolescent Insomnia as a Risk Factor for Early Adult Depression and Substance Abuse.
2008 October
University of North Texas.

Full Study