Insomnia disorder in adolescence: Diagnosis, impact, and treatment

Sleep Med Rev. 2018 Jun:39:12-24. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2017.06.009. Epub 2017 Jul 1.


Insomnia disorder is very common in adolescents; it is particularly manifest in older adolescents and girls, with a prevalence comparable to that of other major psychiatric disorders (e.g., depressive disorders). However, insomnia disorder in adolescence is poorly characterized, under-recognized, under-diagnosed, and under-treated, and the reason for the female preponderance for insomnia that emerges after puberty is largely unknown. Insomnia disorder goes beyond an individual complaint of poor sleep or a sleep state misperception, and there is emerging evidence supporting the association of insomnia symptoms in adolescents with alterations in several bio-systems including functional cortical alterations and systemic inflammation. Insomnia disorder is associated with depression and other psychiatric disorders, and is an independent risk factor for suicidality and substance use in adolescents, raising the possibility that treating insomnia symptoms in early adolescence may reduce risk for these adverse outcomes. Cognitive behavioral treatments have proven efficacy for adolescent insomnia and online methods seem to offer promising cost-effective options. Current evidence indicates that insomnia in adolescence is an independent entity that warrants attention as a public health concern in its own right.

Keywords: Adolescents; Depression; Hyperarousal; Insomnia; Mental health; Polysomnography; Pubertal development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy