In a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers examine the correlation between poor sleep patterns and substance use initiation in adolescents. The results indicate that poor sleep is associated with a greater risk of alcohol and marijuana use.
Poor sleep and substance use have long been associated in teens and young adults. Both of these factors can have detrimental health effects, such as vehicle accidents, depression, and suicide, and have thus been a significant public health concern. Past research has focused predominantly on teens who are already at risk for substance abuse, for example, those with preexisting psychiatric conditions. This is why researchers sought to explore the association between sleep patterns and substance use initiation among adolescents who were substance-naïve. They explored whether short sleep, different sleeping patterns on weekdays and weekends, and daytime fatigue were associated with a higher probability of alcohol, marijuana, and cigarette use.
Researchers collected data from 829 adolescents from the years 2009-2015. Participants were between the ages of 12-16 years old. Study participants were asked to complete web-based surveys over the course of 4 years. Surveys asked participants about substance use (ie. alcohol, tobacco, and/or marijuana use), and sleep patterns (ie. sleep duration, daytime fatigue, etc.). Parents were also asked to complete surveys about their child’s behaviour, and whether they showed internalized behaviours (ie. depression) and/or externalized behaviours (ie. aggression, rule breaking, etc.).
The results of this study indicate that sleep patterns can be used as an indicator of substance use risk in teens. Shorter sleep duration was associated with alcohol use, and marijuana use. Daytime sleepiness was also a predictor of alcohol use. Tobacco did not seem to be related to sleep quality or duration.
This study shows that there is a correlation between substance use initiation in adolescents and their sleep patterns, irrespective of preexisting psychological conditions. While the mechanisms behind these associations remain unclear, it is apparent that more research needs to be done. Future research should focus on sleep quality interventions as a potential preventative measure for substance use.
Written By: Nicole Pinto, HBSc