Introduction: Sleep deprivation is a growing global concern, especially in adolescents and younger adults. Specifically, research on the loss of sleep has shown various negative consequences in neurobiological and cognitive functions. Sleep disturbances and mental health disorders have been linked, with sleep disturbances being a symptom of/risk factor for various mental health disorders. However, the relationship between sleep and anxiety remains unclear. The purpose of this review is to investigate the relationship between sleep deprivation and anxiety, namely, its role in state anxiety, trait anxiety, and the formation of anxiety disorders in adolescents and younger adults.
Methods: Primary sources of literature were found through the PubMed and Web of Science databases. Articles investigating the relationship between sleep deprivation, state/trait anxiety and anxiety disorders from within the last two decades were chosen and reviewed.
Results: The literature shows that acute sleep deprivation is linked to increased state anxiety with adolescents being disproportionately vulnerable to the consequences of a lack of quality sleep. Studies show that individuals with higher trait anxiety have poorer sleep quality which may negatively affect emotional processing. The exact nature of the relationship between sleep deprivation and anxiety disorder development is mixed, but the available literature suggests that the relationship is reciprocal.
Discussion: Although there has been an established link between anxiety and sleep deprivation, the mechanisms through which these occur need to be further understood. Findings suggest that sleep quality is affected by a change in the HPA-axis, which can increase cortisol production, a change that has been associated with poorer processing speed. It was also found that adolescents, especially early adolescents, are more vulnerable to the emotional consequences of sleep deprivation than adults are. An expansion of the current literature is required to understand the relationship between sleep and anxiety disorders.
Conclusion: More research in this field for younger populations is required to develop effective preventative measures and treatments for anxiety. Future studies should also consider a multiple disciplinary approach from social and developmental research to fully understand the factors that affect sleep in adolescents and its relationship to anxiety and anxiety disorders.
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