By Roland Sebestyén
A recent landmark study has found that certain sleep characteristics could lead to heavy alcohol and cannabis use the following year for teenagers and young adults.
According to a study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, different factors, such as sleep timing and sleep duration, have an impact on teens and young adults’ alcohol and cannabis usage.
The authors reported that those staying up more and spending the night out will be more likely to use cannabis later.
Also, “greater late-night preference, greater daytime sleepiness, later sleep timing on the weekend, and shorter sleep duration during weekdays and on the weekend, all predicted an increased risk for more severe binge drinking the following year.”
The researchers analysed two separate groups: middle school/high school students (age 12-18) and high school graduates (age 18-27).
Lead author Brant P. Hasler said: “Overall, the results suggest that teens in middle and high school may be more vulnerable to sleep-related risk for substance use.
“The particular pattern of sleep predictors in the middle school and high school sample is consistent with the ‘circadian misalignment’ caused by early school start times.”
The results showed that only every one in four students in grades 9-12 gets sufficient sleep on the weekdays (school nights).
The American Academy of Sleep recommends that middle school and high school start times should be 8:30 am or later to provide an opportunity for all school children to get enough sleep.
Professor Hasler said: “Sleep is modifiable behaviour, and perhaps easier to modify than going after substance use directly.
“Furthermore, other studies show college-age teens are more willing to hear about changing their sleep than changing their substance use.
“Thus, focusing on improving teen sleep — including through delaying school start times — may be an underutilized but effective approach to reducing risk for problematic substance use.”