Sleep loss and mood in adolescents

Teenagers. A day in the life of a teenager is loaded with stress – stress from social pressure, from parents, from teachers, and from themselves. It might not be a surprise that teenagers can be a little cranky sometimes. Recent evidence supports the notion that sleep is a key regulator of emotions. This is important, given that many teenagers are not getting enough sleep. Could moodiness in teenagers be worsened or even caused by a lack of sleep?

To answer this question, a team of researchers from Australia set out to see whether sleep deprivation would alter emotions in adolescents (14-18 years old). Twelve research participants underwent total sleep deprivation following two normal nights of sleep in a sleep lab. Every 2 hours of wakefulness across the 3 day span, the participants self-rated their mood, with measures of anger, depression, anxiety, confusion, fatigue, and vigor (energy). Mood ratings from the 2 days when participants had slept normally were compared with ratings following sleep deprivation.

Following sleep deprivation, ratings for each mood decreased, indicating sleep deprivation greatly disturbed the mood of the participants. Interestingly, the females seemed to suffer from sleep loss to a greater extent than the males. Specifically, the female participants had greater depression, anxiety, and confusion following sleep deprivation, while males did not experience this.

This is not the first time that females have been shown to suffer from sleep loss to a greater extent than males. Females seem to have a greater susceptibility to the negative consequences of sleep loss, so ensuring female teenagers are sleeping properly is very important.

As has been discussed previously, children and teenagers are becoming more and more at risk for sleep apnea, given that many young individuals are now overweight. What’s more, many of these individuals are not aware of their sleep apnea status, and therefore they may have nightly poor sleep quality. Although sleep deprivation is not necessarily the same thing as sleep apnea, it is important to note that even minor sleep loss may affect mood negatively in adolescents. If a child or teen is ever suspected of having sleep apnea, have them see a sleep specialist immediately.


Source: Short, M. A., & Louca, M. (2015). Sleep deprivation leads to mood deficits in healthy adolescents. Sleep Medicine. In Press.

Janna Mantua


Janna is a PhD Student / Graduate Research Assistant at University of Massachusetts Amherst with a background in clinical sleep research and psychology. Janna Mantua is a PhD student in the Behavioral Neuroscience department at the University of Massachusetts. Her research focuses on sleep and aging, with specific projects on cognitive health, inflammation, memory formation, and neuroimaging. Prior to her PhD work, Janna was involved in research on sleep apnea and cognitive decline at the NYU Sleep Disorders Center.

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