Sleep and Persistent Teen Depression

The following is information from the 2017 31st Annual Meeting of the Associated Sleep Societies

Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) may play a role in persistent depressive symptoms and poor response to standard pharmacologic treatments in adolescents. Screening adolescents with treatment resistant depression (TRD) for SDB “may be clinically valuable, since SDB is readily treatable.” Said Teena Chase, MD, PHD, Department of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, during her oral presentation. She also noted diagnosing and treating SDB may improve clinical outcomes early in the course of mood disorders in adolescents and lead to a better long-term prognosis.

The prevalence of SDB in adolescents is estimated to range from 1-7%, but the data are inconsistent. Major depressive disorders affect 5% to 8% of adolescents, and 40% may be treatment resistant.

Participants in a study (J Clin Sleep Med. 2013:9:1213-1220) were divided into 20 outpatient adolescents with TRD and 20 healthy controls matched for sex and age. The severity of depressive symptoms was rated on the Beck Depression Inventory.

They found that rates of SDB were significantly higher in the TRD group than the control group (50% vs 15%; P=.018), In the TRD group, the number of respiratory disturbances correlated with depressive symptoms.

While more studies are needed to determine the effect that treating SDB has on adolescent depression, in the treatment resistant group, it is recommended that adolescents with depression be screened for sleep disordered breathing early in their care. If you feel your adolescent may benefit from an evaluation, ask your pediatrician about screening for sleep disordered breathing.

You can access a free online screening tool at: