Childhood Sleep Trouble Linked With Drug Abuse

Estimates
show about 40 million Americans suffer from some type of sleep
disorder. A new study suggests children who have trouble sleeping now
may have a higher risk of alcohol and drug problems as young adults.

Researchers found
the prevalence of sleep problems in adolescents and young adults
between the ages of 12 and 25 is steadily increasing. Consequences of
suffering from sleep problems as a child include increased risk of
unintentional injuries and death, negative moods and increased use of
alcohol and drugs.

Little is known
about why children suffer from sleep disorders, but Timothy Roehrs,
director of research at the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at the
Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Mich., says the sedative affects of
alcohol and many drugs may cause a dangerous cycle of substance abuse.

"Adults who have
insomnia and self-administer alcohol before sleep as a sleep aid will
do so to a greater extent than a non-insomniac who has the same social
drinking history," Roehrs told Ivanhoe. "The alcohol does initially
improve their sleep without the negative consequences that everyone
talks about, but the problem is that tolerance develops very rapidly,
so you have to use larger doses and you get into a vicious circle. As
the tolerance develops, your sleep gets worse than it was initially."

Being excessively
tired in early childhood predicted problems inhibiting impulses and
behavior during adolescence, which in turn predicted higher numbers of
illicit drugs used. This could mean that people who are naturally
risk-takers and unable to control their behavior, might also be unable
to control their behavior during sleep, experts say. Trouble sleeping
was also directly correlated with binge drinking, blackouts, driving
after drinking alcohol and the number of lifetime alcohol problems
during young adulthood.

"The bottom line is
sleep is important," Roehrs said. "Even if it is not causal for this
relation, improving sleep will modify and minimize the risks."