Sleep Habits Can Be A Predictor For Substance Abuse

A recent study has shown that bad sleeping habits during childhood is linked with substance abuse in adolescents. Moreover, less sleep hours predicted earlier onset of alcohol and cannabis abuse. A recent study investigated the possible link association between the duration and quality of sleep at age 11 and alcohol and cannabis use throughout adolescence.

The study was conducted by scientists from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Pitt Department of Psychology.

Researchers looked at 310 boys in Western Pennsylvania, which included 186 children whose mothers had completed the Child Sleep Questionnaire. The researchers used this data to calculate reports on sleep duration and quality of sleep of the children at age 11.

The researchers then interviewed the participants at ages 20 and 22, where they were asked questions about lifetime weed and alcohol use.

Brant P Hasler, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology, and lead author of the study, said in a press statement, “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.”

After keeping in mind and adjusting for factors such as socioeconomic status, race, active distraction, internalizing problems, possibility of rough neighborhood, and externalizing problems, both the duration and quality of sleep at age 11 were associated with multiple early substance use risk factors.

More specifically, less sleep was linked with substance use at an early age, intoxication, and repeated use of both alcohol and weed, whereas poor sleep quality was linked with earlier alcohol use, intoxication and repeated use. Moreover, poor sleep quality was linked with earlier cannabis intoxication and repeated use, but not first use.

Although quality of sleep and duration of sleep had a link with substance use, intoxication, and repeated use, other sleep factors such as sleep timings were not factored into the study.

Factoring in sleep timings could have had a major impact on the study as sleep timings can dictate how individuals perform their daily actions. Our sleep timings are after all controlled by our genes, since our ancestors used to sleep in shifts — there were those who slept during the nights, and then there were those who kept guard at night against possible predators and other hazards.

Sleep is regulated by body’s internal clock known as the circadian rhythm or circadian clock. The brain’s circadian clock is located in the hypothalamus which is responsible for regulating hormones in the body.

When the circadian clock gets altered, biological processes such as feeding patterns, body temperature, alertness, body restoration processes such as cell regeneration, and hormone production get affected, any of which could have a possible role in making children susceptible to substance abuse.

This is especially true since a recent research by University of Michigan scientists has claimed that proper sleep schedules can act as natural anti-depressant, which could mean that risk of consuming alcohol to suppress feelings of depression can be reduced.

Both duration of sleep and quality of sleep in early adolescence may have implications for the development of alcohol and weed use in later years through adolescence. The researchers urged for further studies to explore the mechanisms linking sleep and substance use for a convincing connection.

It is important to know that good parenting techniques can prevent bad habits in children. The drinking habits of young individuals have transformed dramatically over the years. Unlike previous generations, they are more likely to indulge in heavy episodic or binge drinking, which can be both excessive and uncontrolled.

This has given birth to a trend of drinking where excessive drinking is promoted and even encouraged as a part of the acceptance ceremony into adulthood. Social media and the entertainment industry has a big role in promoting this culture as well.

What’s more upsetting is that parents seem to be the ones influencing their kids to drink. This can start with parents letting their kids test alcohol in sips. Despite the potential harm this causes, there has been no effective research addressing the issue of parental supply, as well as the factors that influence this form of alcohol intake, such as familial, parental, peer and adolescent characteristics.

A recent study has found that alcohol provision, in the form of few sips, to the children under parental guidance acts as a positive reinforcement for the adolescents making them susceptible to alcohol abuse in the future. This behavior can have many repercussions, especially in shaping social and interpersonal behaviors of children in longer terms.

As parents are responsible for setting good behavior in their kids, little acts such as managing their sleep timings can have a huge impact on their tendency to abuse illicit substances.

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