A new study shows teens who can't fall asleep at night are mainly worrying about the fallout of sleeping in and missing out on school.
The report, published in the international journal Sleep Medicine, found that "catastrophising" about school work, academic performance and social relationships at school are associated with pre-sleep anxiety, which in turn, is associated with poorer sleep.
Catastrophising is a repetitive cognitive process resulting in thoughts of catastrophic consequences, and has been related to increased sleep disturbances in community samples of children and adolescents.
As part of the research, 40 teenagers with delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD) – a biological delay of the natural body clock which causes the individual to have significant trouble falling asleep and waking at appropriate times – were asked to keep a seven-day sleep journal, and were also interviewed by a trained sleep specialist and assessed for measures of anxiety and depression.
Researcher Rachel Hiller said the aim of the study was to explore the role of dysfunctional thinking, anxiety and the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, in DSPD, and to determine the most common catastrophic themes in the sample of teenagers.
"Many of the teens we see with DSPD go to bed because their parents tell them to (or they think they have to, to wake up on time for school) but then end up lying awake for hours because their body clock simply isn't ready to fall asleep," she said.
"As a consequence, a lot of these teens have significant issues with school non-attendance – if they do force themselves out of bed it can impact their concentration and grades so we wanted to know what they are thinking about while they're lying in bed, and how this might be keeping them awake even longer."
Hiller said 70 per cent of the participants were catastrophising about school, leading to increased anxiety and difficulty falling asleep, which in turn may exacerbate their disorder.