Parents, take note! Every reduced hour of sleep at the age of 11 accelerates the first use of alcohol or cannabis in adolescence by 20%, a new study warns.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in the US suggest a link between the sleep duration and quality, both during the late childhood with the alcohol and cannabis use later in adolescence.
“Treating problems with drugs and alcohol once they exist and preventing them can be challenging, and we are always looking for modifiable risk factors,” said Brant P Hasler, assistant professor at UPMC.
“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,” said Hasler.
Researchers analysed 186 boys, whose mothers completed the Child Sleep Questionnaire as part of a larger longitudinal study of low-income boys examining factors associated with vulnerability and resilience.
Based on questionnaire results from when the boys were 11 years old, their sleep time and sleep quality were calculated. At ages 20 and 22, the young men were interviewed about lifetime cannabis and alcohol use.
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After accounting for race, socioeconomic problems, neighbourhood danger, self-regulation, and internalising and externalising problems, both sleep duration and sleep quality at age 11 were associated with early substance use throughout adolescence.
The study participants who slept the least, compared to the participants who slept the most, were more likely to report earlier use, intoxication and repeated use of both alcohol and cannabis.
Every hour less of sleep at age 11 was associated with 20% acceleration to the first use of alcohol and/or cannabis, Hasler added.
Worse sleep quality was associated with earlier alcohol use, intoxication and repeated use. It was also associated with earlier cannabis intoxication and repeated use, but not first use.
“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,” Hasler added.
The study appears in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.