Wellness

Teen Sleep Disorders May Lead to Substance Abuse

Cute Maine Coon cat is on a teenage girl's bed

American children are tired. At least 27 percent of school-age children and 45 percent of teenagers do not get enough sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Researchers believe children and teens who are not getting adequate sleep are at higher risk for engaging in harmful behaviors that can have unintended consequences.

Research studies
Researchers at Idaho State University studied results from 6,504 teenagers who participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health over several years. They identified that teens who have problems sleeping and/or don’t get sufficient sleep are at higher risk for drug and alcohol-related problems, such as use of illicit drugs, binge drinking, getting drunk or high, cigarette smoking, driving under the influence, alcohol-related interpersonal problems, blackouts from drinking and risky sexual behaviors.

In another study, Idaho State researchers discovered that sleep problems in children ages 3 to 8 may predict use of alcohol, drugs and marijuana when they are teenagers.

Sleep habits
The link between sleep problems and substance use and abuse is multifaceted, researchers explain. While lack of sleep may cause teens to use and abuse substances, the use of drugs and alcohol can affect sleep quality and quantity.

Other ways sleep habits affect teens:
• Between ages 13 and 17, teens sleep 7 or more hours, but by age 18 about two-thirds sleep less than that amount.
• Teen sleep disorders can lead to other health problems, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, mood disorders and emotional problems.

Better sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers naturally tend to stay up late and sleep in due to their biological system. However, school schedules, social pressures and work requirements often interfere, causing them to lose out on sleep.

Parents and caregivers can help teens develop healthy sleep habits by:
• Creating a schedule that allows for 8 hours of sleep
• Limiting caffeine and energy drinks after 2 p.m.
• Removing electronics from the bedroom
• Encouraging daily exercise to reduce stress

Adults and teens who do not get enough sleep are more likely to experience an injury, illness or accident. Read this blog to learn more.

Sources:
Huffington Post
U.S. News & World Report
National Sleep Foundation
Science Daily

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