Sleep deprived kids more likely to abuse drink and drugs

By Drum Digital
02 October 2016

Adolescents who miss out on their sleep are more likely to abuse drugs and binge-drink, a new study warns.

U.S. researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine monitored 186 boys from western Pennsylvania, starting at age 11, for a decade to survey their sleeping habits. The boys were selected for the survey after their mothers filled out the university's Child Sleep Questionnaire.

It was part of a larger longitudinal study examining factors associated with vulnerability and resilience of boys who lived in low-income households.

Results were based on questionnaires conduced when the boys were 11, with their sleep time and sleep quality calculated. After conducting in-depth interviews with the 21 year olds about their experiences with drugs or alcohol, they found the boys who experienced more sleep disruption 10 years ago began drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis the earliest.

In fact, each hour less of sleep at age 11 was associated with a 20 per cent acceleration to the first use of alcohol and cannabis, researchers revealed in the study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

A worse quality of sleep was associated with earlier alcohol use, intoxication and repeated use. The study further found that poor sleep quality was associated with earlier cannabis intoxication and repeated use, but not first use.

"Doing what we can to ensure sufficient sleep duration and improve sleep quality during late childhood may have benefits in terms of reducing the use of these substances later in life," explained lead author Dr Brant Hasler, assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology. "After considering other possible influences, we were able to determine that sleep problems are preceding the substance use problems."

"Addressing sleep may now be something we can add into the package of our substance abuse prevention and treatment efforts," Dr Hasler added.

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