Research Update: Poor Sleep Linked to Teenage Substance Abuse

Teenagers are known for staying up late and oversleeping in the morning. Ask almost any parent about their teen’s sleep habits, and they’ll likely describe them as erratic, at best. Sleeping too much or during odd hours is indeed often perceived as normalcy for American teenagers. According to a recent article published by Psychology Today, teens are actually biologically predisposed to stay up later at night and snooze later into the morning.

Of course, many different things can cause sleep problems in teens, and it can be difficult to even diagnose if your teen has problems with their sleep. However, the Psychology Today article raised a red flag and questioned: Do sleep issues in teens predict drug and alcohol problems?

What do Sleep Issues Look Like?

Thirty percent of children and adolescents experience some sort of sleep disturbance. Sleep disorders include insufficient sleep, insomnia, sleep apnea, circadian rhythm disorder, bedwetting, sleepwalking, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy.

According new research published by Idaho State University, probing the fuzzy relationship between teenage substance abuse and sleep issues like those listed, these troubles can predict a handful of problems related to drinking and drug use, including:

  •  Alcohol-related interpersonal problems
  • Binge drinking
  • Getting drunk or high
  • Driving under the influence
  • Using illicit drugs
  • Being involved in sexual situations they later regretted

The Effects of Poor Sleep Habits and Teenage Substance Abuse

Teenagers need an average of 9.25 hours of sleep every night, according to Pacific Quest’s Medical Director, Dr. Britta Zimmer. Teens can do everything right for their health in terms of eating well and exercising, but if their sleep is deregulated then they cannot achieve optimal health.

Inadequate and poor sleep can result in health problems such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well as behavioral problems, learning difficulties, depression and anxiety, according to Dr. Zimmer. Pair poor sleep habits with regular teenage substance abuse, and the risks increase dramatically.

Establishing Sleep as a Pillar of Health

Sleep disturbances are common for incoming students, and it’s because of this that our staff has made sleep one of the Pillars of Health at Pacific Quest. At Pacific Quest, we help young people gain a greater sense of awareness around the importance of quality sleep. This awareness, coupled with the structure of the program and the removal of all alcohol, caffeine and drug use help to restore quality sleep for many of our students. “We take a proactive, integrative approach to sleep issues and with knowledge and insight, you can too,” said Dr. Zimmer.

If you’re interested in learning more about how our program can help, download our free Parent’s Guide, “10 Warning Signs That Your Child May Need Help.”

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