Teenagers can sometimes struggle to get out of bed in the morning – but ensuring they get enough sleep could be vital for health in later life.

It’s late morning and the teenagers in the house are still fast asleep long after you’ve got up. Should you rush upstairs and pull them out of bed by their feet? It may be tempting, but the answer is probably no. The evidence is mounting that sleep in adolescence is important for current and future mental health.

It should come as no surprise that a serious lack of sleep, or seriously disturbed sleep, is one of the most common symptoms of depression among adolescents. After all, however tired you might feel, it’s hard to drop off if you’re wracked with doubts or worries. This is true for adults too, with 92% of people with depression complaining of sleep difficulties.

What is perhaps less intuitive is that, for some, problems with sleeping might start before the depression, raising the risk of mental health problems in the future. Does this mean that sleep in teenagers should be taken more seriously? And can it lower the risk of depression later?

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In a study published in 2020, Faith Orchard, a psychologist at the University of Sussex, examined the data from a large group of teenagers followed from the age of 15 to 24. Those who reported sleeping badly at the age of 15, but didn’t have depression or anxiety at the time, were more likely than their peers to be experiencing anxiety or depression when they reached 17, 21 or 24 years of age.

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