Nagging negative thoughts, and striving for perfection, keep teenagers awake at night, increasing their chances of becoming depressed and anxious, according to a study that may lead to new interventions for better mental health in teens.
The study, published in the journal Sleep Health, is based on an online survey of almost 400 adolescents aged 14 to 20 years.
According to the researchers, including those from Flinders University in Australia, alternative treatments for repetitive negative thinking and perfectionism can help deal with delayed sleep and mental health problems among teenagers.
Michael Gradisar, a co-author of the study from Flinders University said the study confirms the link between repeated negative thinking and delayed sleep, which is also exacerbated with perfectionism tendencies.
"Repetitive negative thinking is habit forming and it can significantly contribute to making sleep difficult and causing depressed mood in teenagers, who already like to stay up late at night," Gradisar said.
"This study supports the need to recognise repetitive negative thinking in preventing and treating sleep problems, along with individual differences in perfectionism and mood," he added.
According to the scientists, the findings have important clinical implications for providing possible treatment targets.
Depression, which affects between 3 per cent and 8 per cent of adolescents, is often recurring and may continue to develop into more severe depressive disorders during adulthood, the researchers said.
In teenagers, they said, depression can cause poor concentration, a loss of interest in schoolwork, difficulties in peer relationships, and even suicide.
According to the study, sleep plays an important part in preventing and treating depression in teenagers.
The scientists noted that parents and carers can implement better sleep health by encouraging regular bedtime routines during the school week and weekends, and encouraging mobile phones to be turned off earlier in the evening.
Gradisar added that busy lifestyles, stress, and screen time make self-help and accessible resources for better sleep increasingly important.