Sleep Deficiency in Childhood Can Lead to Drug and Alcohol Abuse

According to a study by Idaho State University’s psychology department, childhood sleep deficiency can lead to drug and alcohol abuse among young adults.

Maria Wong, a Psychology Professor at ISU, has spent the past 12 years studying the connection between childhood sleeping problems and drug and alcohol abuse. She has followed nearly 386 children and young adults, 292 males, and 94 females across the United States. "We usually do about six or seven (interview) sessions (per visit),” she said.

The children were asked questions regarding their physical health, drug use habits, academic performance, and parental relations. The sessions also consisted of meetings with parents.

Through her research, Wong discovered that children who had early sleep difficulties were twice as liable to indulge in drug or alcohol abuse later on in life. The drugs included marijuana, heroin, and cocaine.

Wong said that the dearth of sleep can cause a person to have poor self-control over his or her body. She said that gathering of lost sleep can result in an adolescent or young adult becoming dependent on certain substances later on in life to function appropriately.

"You end up medicating yourself to make yourself feel better, but then you’re less able to control yourself, and that might lead to poor decision making,” she said, adding that there are various factors behind childhood sleep troubles, generally attributed to either hereditary or environmental factors.

Wong stressed that parents should play a pivotal role in preventing sleep deficiency among their children.