Author(s): Wong MM, Brower KJ, Zucker RA
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Very few prospective studies examine the relationship between childhood sleep problems and subsequent substance use. In this study, we examined how sleep problems at ages 3-8 predicted onset of alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use in adolescence. We also investigated the relationships between childhood sleep problems and adolescent internalizing and externalizing problems. METHODS: Study participants were 292 boys and 94 girls from a community sample of high risk families and controls in an ongoing longitudinal study. RESULTS: Controlling for parental alcoholism, sleep problems at ages 3-8 predicted onset of alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use among boys and onset of alcohol use among girls. Childhood sleep problems were related to maternal ratings of internalizing and externalizing problems during adolescence for both boys and girls. Adjusting for these problems did not weaken the effects of sleep problems on onset of substance use. CONCLUSIONS: This is to our knowledge the first study that prospectively examines gender differences in the relationship between sleep problems and early onset of substance use. Childhood sleep problems predicted early onset of substance use for boys but not girls. If childhood sleep problems indeed increase the probability of substance use onset, greater attention by parents to sleep problems in children and adolescents would potentially have ameliorative long-term effects. Parents are encouraged to explore different ways to help their children sleep better, including obtaining information and suggestions from their primary care physicians.
This article was published in Sleep Med
and referenced in Journal of Sleep Disorders & Therapy