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Sleep loss in childhood linked to addiction in later life

Friday, April 9th, 2010 Sleep loss in childhood linked to addiction in later life

Children who sleep badly are more likely to develop alcohol of drug dependency issues in later life, according to a US study.

Poor sleeping patterns in youth could also increase an individual’s tendency to drink-drive, smoke, and increase the risk of blackouts, researchers claim.

The study - conducted at the Idaho State University - focused on the habits of 386 teenagers and found that children who had trouble sleeping between the ages of three and five were more likely to sleep badly between the ages of 11 and 17.

Researchers claim that this lack of sleep can be linked to higher drug use between the ages of 18 and 21.

Maria Wong, professor of psychology at the university, said: “We found that ‘having trouble sleeping’ in early childhood, ages three to five, predicted a higher probability of ‘having trouble sleeping’ in adolescence, ages 11 to 17, which in turn predicted the presence of drug-related problems in young adulthood ages 18 to 21.”

Wong’s research is the culmination of previous studies of children at younger ages to show the association between childhood sleep problems and the early onset of substance use in adolescence. “In those studies, overtiredness and having trouble sleeping predicted onset of alcohol, cigarette, and illicit drug use among boys and onset of alcohol use only among girls,” she said. “Most of our participants are young adults right now. So we wanted to test for the association between sleep problems and substance problems now that they are older.”

“Overtiredness in early childhood predicted lower response inhibition - that is, having problems inhibiting impulses and behaviour - in adolescence, which predicted higher numbers of illicit drugs used.”

She added that poor sleeping “directly predicted the presence of binge drinking, blackouts, driving after drinking alcohol, and the number of lifetime alcohol problems in young adulthood”.

The study was published in journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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