Childhood Sleep Problems Linked to Drug Use in Adolescence

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April 12, 2010

Researchers have identified a long-term relationship between childhood sleep problems and subsequent alcohol and drug outcomes. "We found that 'having trouble sleeping' in early childhood, ages three to five, predicted a higher probability of 'having trouble sleeping' in adolescence, ages 11 to 17, which in turn predicted the presence of drug-related problems in young adulthood ages 18 to 21," said Maria M. Wong , associate professor in the department of psychology at, Idaho State University. She added that "...over-tiredness in early childhood predicted lower response inhibition – that is, having problems inhibiting impulses and behavior – in adolescence, which predicted higher numbers of illicit drugs used. Over-tiredness in childhood also directly predicted the presence of binge drinking, blackouts, driving after drinking alcohol, and the number of lifetime alcohol problems in young adulthood." Wong noted that her study does not directly explain why this relationship exists. "Childhood sleep problems appear to have both direct and indirect effects... our previous work showed childhood sleep problems were associated with early onset of alcohol and drug use, which was a well-established risk factor for subsequent alcohol and drug related problems. This suggests a marker of alcohol problems that may be detectable very early in the life course." The prevalence of problem sleepiness among adolescents and young adults, ages 12 to 25 years, is not only high but also increasing. Some serious consequences include increased risks such as car accidents, low academic performance, negative moods, and increased use of alcohol and drugs. Tim Roehrs , director of research at the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at the Henry Ford Hospital added, "Sleep and sleepiness problems are important issues in childhood and adolescence. There are emerging data that the prevalence of chronic insomnia in children and adolescents is not that different than that seen in adults. There also are emerging data that there is morbidity associated with insomnia and sleepiness in childhood and adolescence – school and social problems and the data of the present study now add substance problems." "The bottom line is, sleep is important," said Roehrs. "Even if it is not causal for