Link between insomnia and depression found at Science & Technology Fair

A study looking at the impact of sleep on depression in adolescents was 18 months in the making for Ellen Thompson.

A study looking at the impact of sleep on depression in adolescents was 18 months in the making for Ellen Thompson. The AGC Tauranga student has taken out the top prize at the NIWA Bay of Plenty Science & Technology Fair.

Ellen Thompson won the top prize at the NIWA Bay of Plenty Science & Technology Fair.

Ellen took a year to review over 50 scientific papers on the relationship between insomnia and depression in adolescents. She then took the project a step further by conducting a survey of adolescent participants from her school.

“From my literature review I was able to determine that insomnia does play a causal role in the onset of depression during adolescence,” says Ellen. Her survey data then showed that factors such as caffeine use and device use statistically had a negative effect on sleep duration.

The survey found that participants slept an average of 7.4 hours per night during the week, way below the recommended quantity of 9.5 hours.

“This means that on the whole adolescents are chronically sleep deprived,” says Ellen.

“Furthermore, 91% used their devices before going to sleep and 57% used their devices during the night. This means that not only are they not receiving the necessary 9.5 hours of sleep a night, they also have a very disrupted circadian sleep cycle.”

The project has prompted Ellen to take her research further and she’s currently looking into educational insomnia apps that can be deployed by schools for educational purposes.

The judges were impressed by the amount of material and references Ellen’s project displayed and for Ellen it is a step up after placing as runner-up overall in 2022.

Harry Talbot won runner up award at the NIWA BOP Science and Technology Fair.

This year’s runner up was Harry Talbot from ACG, Tauranga. Harry’s project was titled ‘Do cockroaches change the ph levels in soil’.

Thr fair was held at Equippers in Rotorua with seven local schools taking part.

NIWA is a key supporter and sponsor of regional Science and Technology Fairs throughout Aotearoa New Zealand and has been for more than two decades. Sponsoring the fairs is part of a long-term NIWA commitment to enhancing science and technology for young New Zealanders. 

The fair is about encouraging young people towards problem solving and creative discovery.

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