Children’s Insomnia may Indicate Future Substance Abuse

( [email protected] ) Apr 30, 2004 03:54 PM EDT

Recent research has found that children who have trouble sleeping are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs as teenagers.

The study, published in the April issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that insomnia among boys aged 3 to 5 was strongly associated with the use of alcohol and drugs when the boys were 12 to 14 years old.

Almost half began using drugs

Researchers obtained data on 257 boys when the children were 3 to 5 years old. The subjects were followed until they were 12 to 14. Among these children, two-thirds came from homes where at least one parent was an alcoholic.

The results showed that almost half of the children who had sleep problems began using alcohol and drugs by the time they were 14. The scientists found that, even among children without an alcoholic parent, those with sleep problems were more likely to start drinking and using drugs in adolescence.

Sleep problems double risk

Also, among children with an alcoholic parent, sleep problems increased the risk further. Children of these parents were twice as likely to have drug and alcohol problems, but sleep problems increase that risk another twofold.

The study’s authors recommend that parents make sure children have a regular sleep schedule and get adequate amounts of sleep. If problems persist, parents should consult a healthcare practitioner.

1. M.M. Wong; Brower, K. J., Fitzgerald, H. E., Zucker, R.A., “Sleep Problems in Early Childhood and Early Onset of Alcohol and Other Drug Use in Adolescence,” Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2004: 28: 4: 578.