Insomnia as a Precipitating Factor in New Onset Mental Illness: a Systematic Review of Recent Findings

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017 Aug;19(8):44. doi: 10.1007/s11920-017-0802-x.


Purpose: We aimed to systematically review recent publications (01/2014-03/2017) with longitudinal designs allowing for the assessment of the prospective risk of insomnia on new onset mental illness in key conditions: anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance use disorders, and suicide.

Recent findings: A literature yielded 1859 unique articles meeting search criteria were identified; 16 articles met all selection criteria and reviewed with some studies reporting on more than one mental health outcome. Overall, the review supports the hypothesis that insomnia is a predictor of subsequent mental illness. The evidence is strongest for an insomnia-depression relationship. The new studies identified and reviewed add to a modest number of publications supporting a prospective role of insomnia in new onset mental illness in three areas: anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and suicide. The few selected new studies focused on SUD were mixed, and no studies focused on PTSD were identified that met the selection criteria. Treatment of insomnia may also be a preventive mental health strategy.

Keywords: Anxiety; Bipolar disorder; Depression; Insomnia; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Suicide.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology
  • Bipolar Disorder / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / complications*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data