Study Finds Link Between Childhood Sleep Disruption and Mental Illness Later in Life

Sep 12, 2016

Recent research funded by a grant from National Institute of Mental Health at the University of Houston reveals children who experience inadequate or disrupted sleep are more likely to develop depression and anxiety disorders later in life. To pinpoint these cognitive, behavioral and physiological patterns of emotional risk, the researchers are temporarily restricting sleep in 50 pre-adolescent children between the ages of 7 and 11.

“It just sort of makes sense.” Dr. Eric Dyken, Neurologist and Director of the University of Iowa Sleep Disorders Center explains, “People who do not sleep well have more affective, more depressive related disorders.” 

Dr. Dyken believes that this research may show that children could carry these sleep disorders into their adult lives.

“If in the developmental state of a child, very plastic, they can adapt very well, but they can also mal-adapt. They may grow up to be more prone to depression and anxiety.”

So how can parents tackle the problem of difficulty sleeping in adolescents? Dr. Dyken states that sleeping patterns differ from child to child. However, he suggests that “making major changes in the school system might be the place to start.”

In this hour on River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dyken about sleeping disorders in adolescents, new discoveries involving the sleeping patterns of birds, and questions fielded from Iowa Public Radio listeners.