Dr Sophie Li
Dr Sophie Li

Dr Sophie Li

‘Improving childhood sleep: the bedrock of depression prevention.

Black Dog Institute
University of New South Wales, NSW
Awarded 2023
0-12 years Mental Health Research

“Sleep is critical for positive physical and mental health. Yet, most people do not get adequate sleep.”

General Health PhD Scholarship

Researcher Profile

Dr Sophie Li is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Clinical Psychologist at the Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales. Her research and clinical expertise are in youth depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance and the development and evaluation of digital mental health interventions.

She currently leads a program of research examining digital technology as an emotion regulation strategy and its role in youth depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance.

Project Summary

Depression is the greatest cause of disease burden among young people globally with symptoms typically emerging for the first time during childhood. If untreated, symptoms of depression cause significant distress and psychosocial impairments, and increase the likelihood of depression and other mental health problems throughout life.

With a mental health system under pressure and limited access to care, inoculating children against depression is a necessary component to address the growing mental health crisis. Sleep problems are an important, modifiable risk factor for depression onset. Many children (>15%) do not get the recommended 9-11 hours of sleep each night, which contributes to the development of depression symptoms. Current sleep interventions for children are time consuming, burdensome on families and require significant contribution from expert clinicians within an already stretched workforce.

In this project, we will make Sleep Ninja®, an evidence-based smartphone app for adolescent sleep disturbance, appropriate for delivery to 10-12 year olds by including parents in the intervention. An accessible sleep intervention for children will allow us to improve sleep in 10 to 12-year-olds and determine whether improved sleep leads to the alleviation of depression and prevention of major depressive disorder (MDD) in a randomised controlled trial (RCT).

Co-Investigators: Aliza Werner-Seidler, Professor Jennifer Hudson, Gemma Sicouri and Deanna Francis.

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