A new study has found that teens who sleep less or stay up later are significantly more likely to have used alcohol and marijuana over the past month when compared to teens who report better sleep patterns.
Researchers at the RAND Corporation also found that the association between sleep and alcohol or marijuana use was consistent even after controlling for other known risk factors, such as depression.
The findings were generally consistent across racial and ethnic groups, researchers add.
“Our findings suggest that sleep issues are independently associated with alcohol and marijuana use for teens, not just a marker for other risk factors, such as depression,” said Wendy Troxel, the study’s lead author and a behavioral scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
“Better understanding of the association between sleep and substance use is important for parents, schools, and others involved in alcohol and drug prevention efforts for this age group.”
The 2,539 teenagers in the study were recruited from 16 middle schools in three school districts in Southern California. The teens then self-reported their total sleep time and bedtime, as well as alcohol or marijuana use, through a single online survey when they were in high school. The surveys were completed between May 2013 and April 2014.
Researchers caution that while the findings show an association between sleep and the use of alcohol and marijuana, it is not possible to determine cause from effect without additional research.
The research team is now collecting long-term research data to study whether sleep problems predict or lead to the onset of alcohol and/or marijuana use in teens.
Regarding sleep among adolescents, RAND researchers suggest that both individual-level prevention strategies, as well as policy-level strategies, are needed to improve teen sleep. For example, policy-level strategies include recent efforts to delay high school start times, an approach that has been recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other professional organizations, the researchers noted.
The study was published in the journal Sleep Health.
Source: RAND Corporation