Perfectionism and insomnia in adolescents: The role of vulnerability to stress and gender

J Adolesc. 2020 Dec:85:70-79. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2020.10.003. Epub 2020 Oct 15.


Introduction: Perfectionism is an often overlooked yet consistent construct related to insomnia in the scientific literature. Perfectionism and insomnia are both highly prevalent in adolescence. However, there is a dearth of research examining mechanisms linking perfectionism with insomnia, particularly in young people. The current study aimed to investigate whether vulnerability to stress, a factor common to both constructs, accounts for the relationship between perfectionism and insomnia symptoms in a sample of adolescents.

Methods: 281 Australian participants (Mage = 16.53, SD = 1.91, range = 13-19 years, 78% female) completed questionnaires assessing perfectionism, vulnerability to stress and insomnia on one occasion.

Results: Vulnerability to stress accounted for the relationship between self-oriented striving perfectionism, self-oriented critical perfectionism and insomnia symptom severity in females, but not males. Females reported higher self-oriented critical perfectionism, vulnerability to stress and insomnia severity, with a stronger relationship between vulnerability to stress and insomnia symptoms observed for females.

Conclusions: These results may partly explain the preponderance of insomnia in adolescent females. Possible implications for the prevention and treatment of insomnia in young people are discussed.

Keywords: Adolescents; Self-oriented critical perfectionism; Sleep; Sleep reactivity; Socially prescribed perfectionism.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Causality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perfectionism*
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Young Adult