News Release

Study identifies two aspects of sleep related to depression in college student athletes

Results highlight potential treatment targets for depression and sleep interventions

Reports and Proceedings

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

DARIEN, IL – A new study to be presented at the SLEEP 2023 annual meeting identified two specific facets of sleep that mediate the relationship between general sleep disturbances and depression severity in college student athletes.

Results show that perceived sleep quality and difficulty maintaining sleep were significant mediators of this relationship. Surprisingly, neither sleep duration nor the time it takes to fall asleep was a significant mediator.

“These results shed light on which exact sleep facets underlie the relationship between sleep disturbances and depression,” said lead author Kelly Kim, who is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “It is surprising that, although athletes commonly report low sleep duration and high sleep onset latency (especially for college student athletes), it is more so the difficulty maintaining sleep and sleep quality that drive the relationship between sleep and depression.”

According to the authors, prior epidemiological research has established the general relationship between sleep disturbances and depression. However, there is a need to delineate the specific aspects of this relationship more clearly.

The study involved 993 student athletes from schools in the Pac-12. Participants completed sleep and health questionnaires. Statistical analyses were performed using parallel multiple mediator models to understand whether the relationship between sleep disturbances and depression severity was mediated by sleep duration, sleep quality, sleep onset latency, and difficulty maintaining sleep.

Kim noted that the findings are useful because they identify potential treatment targets for a widespread problem.

“The results are important because of how prevalent sleep disorders — especially insomnia — and depression are in athletes, specifically in college student athletes,” she said.

The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented Tuesday, June 6, during SLEEP 2023 in Indianapolis. SLEEP is the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

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Abstract Title: Difficulty maintaining sleep and sleep quality mediate the relationship between sleep disturbances and depression
Abstract ID: 0641
Poster Presentation Date: Tuesday, June 6, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. EDT, Board 436
Presenter: Kelly Kim, University of Arizona

For a copy of the abstract or to arrange an interview with the study author or a sleep expert, please send an email to media@aasm.org.

About the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC
The APSS is a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. The APSS organizes the SLEEP annual meeting each June.

About the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Established in 1975, the AASM advances sleep care and enhances sleep health to improve lives. The AASM has a combined membership of 12,000 accredited sleep centers and individuals, including physicians, scientists and other health care professionals who care for patients with sleep disorders. As the leader in the sleep field, the AASM sets standards and promotes excellence in sleep medicine health care, education and research (aasm.org).

About the Sleep Research Society
The SRS is a professional membership society that advances sleep and circadian science. The SRS provides forums for the exchange of information, establishes and maintains standards of reporting and classifies data in the field of sleep research, and collaborates with other organizations to foster scientific investigation on sleep and its disorders. The SRS also publishes the peer-reviewed, scientific journals Sleep and Sleep Advances (sleepresearchsociety.org).


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