Trouble Sleeping May Lead to Drug & Alcohol Trouble Later On

Shutterstock Overtiredness as an adolescent may cause substance abuse problems later on, according to new research. (Shutterstock)

From lower grades to greater risk of obesity, not getting enough sleep is detrimental to a teen's health in a variety of ways. In case you need another reason to convince your teens to rest up, look no further than this study! According to new research, adolescents with sleep difficulties may have substance abuse problems later on—specifically engaging in risky behaviors like binge drinking or driving under the influence. "Sleep difficulties" can either mean trouble falling asleep or getting an insufficient amount.

Maria W. Wong, a professor at Idaho State University and the study's corresponding author, analyzed data from interviews with more than 6,500 adolescents. The data came from three different waves (or time frames) where sleep difficulties in the first wave were used to predict substance problems in the following waves. Wong explains the findings,

Sleep difficulties at the first wave significantly predicted alcohol-related interpersonal problems, binge drinking, gotten drunk or very high on alcohol, driving under the influence of alcohol, getting into a sexual situation one later regretted due to drinking, and ever using any illicit drugs and drugs-related problems at the second wave.

While this isn't very comforting news, parents and teachers can emphasize the importance of sleep, which in turn, makes a difference. According to Science Daily, Wong believes that parents play a huge role in teen sleep schedules. She says:

Parents need to understand their children's sleep schedule, patterns, and habits. If children have sleep difficulties or poor sleep hygiene, it is important for parents to talk to them and find out the factors that may be causing the problems. Parents could explain the importance of sleep to their children, for example, how sleep may affect the development of the brain and thus self-control and behavior. Parents could also help their children keep a regular sleep schedule and monitor/control their children's activities before sleep, for example, no video games or texting after a certain time at night.

Setting a tech curfew is a great idea! For tips about how to do so, check out this Today's Health Class post. Screen time affects people's melatonin levels, which impacts their ability to fall asleep. This makes sense, since studies show that more screen time leads to less sleep. Instead of staring at their iPhones, encourage your teens to read a book before bed. (And if they're feeling especially inspired, they can enter the February #ChoicesChallenge to read, care, and share!)

Did you know there's a health, well-being, and life skills magazine for teens? Click here to learn more about Choices, and keep an eye out for the binge drinking story in our upcoming April issue!