Substance Abuse More Common In Sleep-Deprived Teens

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The teen years are tough. Not-quite-adults feel pressured to make major life decisions and achieve academically and in their extracurriculars

Some of them yearn to stand out; others silently beg to fit in. All these factors and more make sleep a major asset for this age group. Yet the majority of them aren’t sleeping enough and are more likely to exhibit substance abuse behaviors as a result.

According to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, only an estimated 27.5 percent of middle and high school students slept eight or more hours per night in 2015. Researchers warn that this puts adolescents at greater risk for outcomes like obesity, poor academic performance, and behavioral problems. Teens act out enough as is when they’re sleepy, undesirable behaviors ensue.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends teens get anywhere from eight to 10 hours of sleep nightly. However, this isn’t happening and knowing why might help prevent many teenagers from turning to substance use and abuse for the wrong reasons. Some research suggests rising obesity rates might have played a role in teens’ decreasing sleep duration rate over the past several decades. Teens in lower-income families may also catch fewer z’s.

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School start times make up the most widely accepted causes for sleep deprivation among teens, however. Experts argue that starting schools around 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning might allow many more children to get enough sleep.

And we can’t forget the role of tech in adolescent (and adult) sleep disturbance. Phone, tablet, computer, and television screens give off a kind of blue light that interferes with melatonin production. This disturbs the sleep-wake cycle and makes falling asleep and waking up again much more challenging.

Scientists are planning further research to give more in-depth insight into this possible link between sleep loss and substance abuse. In the meantime, encourage your teens to create their own healthy sleep environments. Keep phones out of reach when it’s time for lights-out. Shun the snooze button. And most importantly, try to help them create a consistent sleep schedule that carries over to weekends. For all we know, the fewer sleep disturbances they face, the less likely they are to turn to drugs to deal with stress, anxiety, and the pressures of growing up.


Did you know an addiction can be caused by a mental disorder?

One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.

But unlike real, effective, long-term solutions, such as medication and detoxification in a treatment center, drugs and alcohol won’t amount to effective treatment.

If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from addiction, then take our free 3 minute assessment.


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