To understand the ways in which depression and sleep are interrelated in children, we first have to understand what depression tends to look like in kids. Much research has been done into depression in minors over the last 20 years, and we now know that depressive disorders are most likely to start between the ages of 15 and 24. Around 1 in 33 young children experience depression; in preteens and teens, that number climbs as high as 1 in 8. 

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In adolescents, depression looks much like it does in adults. Loss of interest in previously engaging activities, difficulty sleeping, and a “down” emotional state are common. In younger kids, however, depression often manifests as aggressive behaviors, moodiness, and poor impulse control. It’s very easy for a young child to be treated as if they are just a trouble-maker when they are in fact experiencing depression. 

One common symptom of depression in those of all ages is sleep disturbances. Kids and adults with depression are more likely to experience sleep-onset insomnia, meaning that it takes them longer to fall asleep than other kids. They are also more likely to wake more often. Researchers have known for many years that poor sleep can contribute to depression in adults; it’s common sense that an ongoing sleep debt can create mental health concerns for children, who are already more sensitive to the effects of lack of sleep. 

Every kid has a bad day or two, but if you’re consistently worried about your child’s mental state, whether because they are demonstrating aggression and other negative behavior or because they seem slow and down, it’s time to consider the quality of sleep they’re getting. No matter how many hours of sleep a night they get, no child should: 

  • snore regularly
  • have their breathing pause while they’re sleeping
  • regularly have difficulty concentrating
  • regularly have difficulty getting up at their normal time
  • or consistently complain of fatigue. 


There is growing evidence that obstructive sleep apnea is a significant contributor in development of depression. Intermittent lack of oxygen, sleep disruption and host of chemical alterations associated with sleep apnea increase the risk of depression. In addition, untreated sleep apnea is a significant risk factor in incomplete remission of symptoms of depression. 

If you, your child’s school, or your pediatrician, is concerned that your child may be depressed, getting a clinical evaluation from a pediatric sleep specialist is an excellent first step to rule out any underlying causes for their emotional state. Not getting enough sleep can cause an increase in stress hormones that makes it more likely someone will suffer from depression. 


If your child is showing signs of depression or has any of the sleep disturbances we’ve listed above, contact us to schedule an evaluation of their sleep. You’ll be delighted to find out just how great it feels to get a good night’s sleep.