Sleep-Deprived Youth at Risk for Depression, Cognitive Problems

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Researchers investigated whether preteens who don’t get 9 hours of sleep per night are more likely to experience depression, thought problems, and other neurocognitive issues.

Preteens who don’t get the recommended 9 hours of sleep per night are more likely to experience depression, thought problems, and other neurocognitive issues than their more-rested peers, according to a recent study published in the Lancet Child Adolescent Health.

In early adolescence, sleep is critical for neurocognitive development. However, today’s young people don’t get enough of it. To find out how sleep affects the brain and the implications, the researchers conducted a propensity score matched, longitudinal, observational cohort study using data from a population-based sample of 9- to 10-year-olds from 21 US study sites in the ongoing Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. They used parent-reported sleep data to measure sleep duration as well as data on behavioral problems, cognition, mental health, and brain measures. The study included data from 8323 participants.

The results showed insufficient sleep influenced depression, thought problems, picture–vocabulary test performance, and crystallized intelligence both at baseline and at the 2-year follow-up. Brain MRI results suggested that “certain functional connectivity measures are consistently susceptible to insufficient sleep over time,” the researchers stated. Changes in the basal ganglia and cortical regions may be linked to the behavioral effects caused by insufficient sleep.

Although the score matching wasn’t perfect, “our findings suggest that cortico–basal ganglia connections have an important role in mediating the effect of insufficient sleep on cognitive and affective functions, and that structural properties of the anterior temporal lobe might contribute to the effect of insufficient sleep on crystallized intelligence,” the researchers concluded.

“These effects can last at least 2 years, highlighting the importance of early sleep intervention at young ages to improve long-term neurocognitive development outcomes.”

Reference

Yang FN, Xie W, Wang Z. Effects of sleep duration on neurocognitive development in early adolescents in the USA: a propensity score matched, longitudinal, observational study. Lancet Child Adolesc Health. Published online July 29, 2022. doi:10.1016/S2352-4642(22)00188-2