When adolescents do not get enough hours of sleep at night, they run a greater risk of experiencing mood swings, scientists have said. This could lead to the development of serious mental health issues.

The study was presented at SLEEP 2016, the 30th Anniversary Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC. It is already well known that a lack of sleep could have a serious impact on the health and development of young people and that it affects their overall mood.

However, this research emphasises that it also increases the variability in adolescents' mood with potentially serious consequences on the long term for their well-being.

Mental health prevention

In total, the scientists recruited 97 healthy participants aged between 14 and 17 years old. During five consecutive nights, the teens' sleep was restricted to six and a half hours. After a two day break, the participants then went through five nights of prolonged sleep – with 10 hours spent in bed.

Adolescents were asked about their emotions and their mood every day. The majority reported increased variability in nervousness, sadness, anger, energy, as well as an inability to concentrate after sleeping few hours – independently of their sex, age and ethnic origins.

"These results are important because variability in mood and emotional dysregulation can interfere with social, school, and behavioural functioning, and may contribute to the development of more severe psychopathology," senior author, Dean Beebe, from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, points out.

However, he also highlights that promoting healthy sleep could be a good prevention strategy against emotional variability and the development serious mental health disorders that can result from it.