While it has been known that adequate sleep is vital when it comes to physical, mental and emotional development, sleep patterns may also play a major role in the likelihood of future substance abuse, according to the results of new research published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Pitt Department of Psychology released a study showing a link between lack of sleep among children and future marijuana and alcohol use. They were able to analyze data gathered from studies to look into the sleep habits of 11-year-old boys. They found that the children who slept the least or had the poorest sleep quality were more likely to abuse drugs as they aged. The researchers also found that the initial use of drugs was earlier for these children.
Understanding the link between quality of sleep is another tool that parents can use to prevent their child from experimenting with and/or becoming addicted to drugs in the future.
“Treating problems with drugs and alcohol once they exist and preventing them can be challenging, and we are always looking for modifiable risk factors. 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,” explained assistant profession of psychiatry and psychology Brant P. Hasler, Ph.D., who was the lead author of the study.
While the research did not investigate the causes of the poor sleep quality, it would seem that familial stressors, school problems and any other type of instability can play a major role in poor sleep. Children that have less parental supervision are also more likely to get poor sleep.
For those that are concerned with the amount or quality of sleep their child is getting, researchers suggest discussing this with the child’s physician. Diagnosing and handling a sleep issue is likely to be much easier than addressing a drug or alcohol addiction later on in life.