Evidence consistently links psychiatric symptoms, reduced neurocognitive functioning (NCF) and sleep problems to the initiation of a wide range of risk behaviours. Less is known, however, about the associations between sleep problems with psychiatric symptoms and NCF among early adolescents yet to engage in substance use.
The present study examined baseline data from an ongoing prospective study of 529 youth aged 10‐12 years who completed a battery of instruments measuring symptom counts for four psychiatric disorders, performance on six tests of NCF and five types of sleep behaviour on week days. We used latent class analysis to classify the 473 substance‐naïve youth into subtypes characterized by probabilistic patterns of psychiatric symptoms and poorer NCF.
Four subtypes emerged: normative (24% of the sample); nonspecific mental health symptoms (27%); lower neurocognitive function (24%) and comorbid psychiatric symptoms and lower neurocognitive function (25%). In a multivariable latent regression model, three or more sleep arousals per night, sleep phase of two or more hours and sleep latency of 20 minutes or more were significantly associated with the two classes having higher symptom counts. Lack of family support was significantly associated with the two classes having lower neurocognitive function and comorbid psychiatric symptoms.
The youth subtypes in this study provide an important baseline characterization to subsequently understand how these neuropsychiatric relationships may change when substance use and other risk behaviours develop during adolescence. Implications for preventing and treating sleep problems associated with psychiatric comorbidity and neurocognitive dysfunctions are discussed.