Young healthy adults aged between 17 and 24 years who get less than an average of 5 hours' sleep each night have three times the risk of developing a mental illness compared to individuals of the same age who sleep eight to nine hours every night, according to a study carried out by the George Institute on Global Health, published in the medical journal Sleep.
Researchers at the George Institute for Global Health carried out a survey involving 20,822 individuals aged 17-24 years across New South Wales, Australia, identified through the state vehicle licensing authority. The study ran for 18 months and revealed a clear link between lack of sleep and mental ill health, the authors wrote.
Lead author, Professor Nick Glozier, said:
The study has revealed a number of links between mental health problems and lack of sleep among young adults." The study, published in the journal SLEEP, also showed that mental ill health is more likely to develop into a chronic problem if a person is sleeping fewer than average hours.
Professor Glozier said that sleep disturbance is an important symptom in mental health disorders, such as depression, and often an early sign or "prodrome" of the illness.
(A prodrome is an early symptom indicating the onset of an attack or disease)
The researchers added that evidence is compelling and consistent that lack of sleep can also raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as weight gain in young individuals.
Professor Glozier added:
Changes in lifestyle patterns are a contributing factor to these problems but it's evident that disrupted sleep patterns are a major contributor to many types of mental health conditions.
The study was conducted as part of collaborative work undertaken by the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Institute and the George Institute for Global Health.
The authors concluded:
Self-reported shorter sleep duration is linearly associated with prevalent and persistent psychological distress in young adults. In contrast, only the very short sleepers had a raised risk of new onset of distress. Different approaches to sleep duration measurement yield different results and should guide any interventions to improve subjective sleep duration in young adults.
"Short Sleep Duration in Prevalent and Persistent Psychological Distress in Young Adults: The DRIVE Study"
Nicholas Glozier, MBBS, MRCPsych, PhD; Alexandra Martiniuk, MSc, PhD; George Patton, MBBS, PhD; Rebecca Ivers, MIPH, PhD; Qiang Li, MSc; Ian Hickie, MBBS, MD; Teresa Senserrick, PhD; Mark Woodward, PhD; Robyn Norton, PhD; Mark Stevenson, MPH, PhD
Written by Christian Nordqvist