Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sleep Problems in Teens Linked to Alcohol Problems

According to a recent study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, Teenagers ages 14 through 16 who had trouble falling or staying asleep were 47 percent more likely to binge drink than their well-rested peers. The findings are based on data collected from 6,500 adolescents who were part of the larger National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which began tracking a group of adolescents in the mid-90s.

In the study, each extra hour of sleep the teens got corresponded with a 10 percent decrease in binge drinking.Teens who had trouble sleeping when the researchers first checked in with them were 14 percent more likely to drive drunk and 11 percent more likely to have interpersonal issues related to alcohol a year later. And five years after that -when everyone was college-aged or older- those who had sleep issues in high school were 10 percent more likely to drive drunk.

Researchers have long known that lack of sleep and alcohol use are related, but the new study shows that sleep issues can actually precede and even predict alcohol use later on. Another study published in the same journal issue also found that a combination of genetics and peer influence affect teens' decisions to drink, but while a child's genetic makeup isn't something anyone can change, sleep may be something that teenagers and their parents can control.

The body's natural circadian rhythms tend to shift during adolescence, and teens may find it difficult fall asleep until 11 p.m. or midnight. Many parents and pediatricians have been pushing to delay school start times for middle and high school students.
Last year the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement calling on middle and high school to start at 8:30 a.m. or later.

The people involved in the recent study were teenagers in the 1990s, and researchers say they wouldn't be surprised if the situation has become worse due to electronic distractions such as tablets and telephones in the bedroom.

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