A Systematic Review Assessing Bidirectionality between Sleep Disturbances, Anxiety, and Depression

Sleep. 2013 Jul 1;36(7):1059-1068. doi: 10.5665/sleep.2810.


Study objectives: To investigate whether sleep disturbances are bidirectionally related to anxiety and depression, and thus identify potential risk factors for each problem.

Design: A systematic review was conducted on 9 studies (8 longitudinal, 1 retrospective) that assessed bidirectionality between a sleep disturbance, and anxiety or depression. Treatment studies were excluded, along with those solely based on clinical samples or cohorts at high risk of suffering from a sleep disturbance, anxiety and depression. Eligible studies were identified by searching PubMed, PsychINFO, Embase, and Scopus databases, and reference lists of eligible studies. Publication dates ranged from the beginning of each database to December 2011.

Measurements and results: Syntheses of longitudinal studies suggested insomnia and sleep quality were bidirectionally related to anxiety and depression, and depression/anxiety, respectively. Childhood sleep problems significantly predicted higher levels of depression and a combined depression/anxiety variable, but not vice-versa. A one-way relationship was found where anxiety predicted excessive daytime sleepiness, but excessive daytime sleepiness was not associated with depression.

Conclusions: Definitive conclusions regarding bidirectionality cannot be made for most sleep disturbances due to the small number and heterogeneity of cohort samples used across studies. Nevertheless, best available evidence suggests insomnia is bidirectionally related to anxiety and depression. Clinical and theoretical implications are discussed.

Citation: Alvaro PK; Roberts RM; Harris JK. A systematic review assessing bidirectionality between sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression. SLEEP 2013;36(7):1059-1068.

Keywords: Anxiety; depression; insomnia; sleep disturbances; systematic review.