Sleep-Deprived Teens at Higher Risk of Developing Problems with Alcohol

Teenagers who don’t get enough sleep are at higher risk of developing problems with alcohol compared with their peers who don’t drink, a new study suggests.

The study used data collected from 6,500 teens who were part of a larger study on adolescent health, NPR reports. The researchers found teens ages 14 to 16 who had trouble falling or staying asleep were 47 percent more likely to engage in binge drinking than their peers who didn’t have sleep problems.

Teens with sleep problems at the beginning of the study were 14 percent more likely to drive drunk and 11 percent more likely to have interpersonal issues related to alcohol one year later. After five years, those who had sleep issues in their teen years were 10 percent more likely to drive drunk.

Teens are advised to get eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. About 45 percent of teens don’t get enough sleep, the article notes.

The findings are published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

“This study shows that sleep issues can actually precede and even predict alcohol use later on,” said lead researcher Maria Wong of Idaho State University. She noted the study found each extra hour of sleep the teens got corresponded with a 10 percent drop in binge drinking.

Dr. Maida Chen, Director of the Pediatrics Sleep Disorders Center at Seattle Children’s Hospital, told NPR it isn’t easy for parents to ensure their teens are getting enough sleep. “Because of their biology, simply saying to teens, ‘Go to sleep earlier’ is not a plausible solution,” says Chen, who wasn’t involved in the study. Teens may have difficulty falling asleep before 11 p.m. or midnight because of their body’s circadian rhythms, she explained.