The presence of insomnia or other sleeping problems substantially increases the odds that a teenager will binge drink and experience a range of alcohol-related harms, current research indicates. For a variety of reasons, teenagers have significant chances of developing insomnia or otherwise failing to get enough sleep to support adequate daytime wakefulness.
In a study published in January 2015 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, researchers from Idaho State University gauged the impact that sleeping problems have on the odds that adolescents will become binge drinkers and suffer the negative consequences of this risky pattern of alcohol consumption. The researchers concluded that sleep-related issues clearly help predict teens’ dangerous alcohol use.
Teenagers And Sleep
Generally speaking, teenagers need roughly nine hours of sleep each night in order to feel fully rested the following day. However, teens in the modern world commonly have difficulty getting this much sleep. Part of the problem is the sheer volume of activities that most adolescents engage in on a daily basis. Examples of these activities include such things as attending school, completing homework, holding an after-school job, playing sports, interacting with peers and participating in favored leisure interests.
In addition, adolescents have a natural tendency toward delayed sleeping times that comes with the hormonal changes associated with puberty. These changes essentially re-set the body’s biological clock and make teenagers stay up later than they did during earlier phases of their lives.
The combination of natural delays in the nightly sleep cycle, the demands of a rigorous daily schedule, and genetically inherited sleeping difficulties in some cases can lead to the onset of a range of adolescent sleep disorders. In addition to insomnia (an inability to fall asleep at night or stay asleep long enough to get adequate rest), common examples of these disorders include narcolepsy, sleep apnea (disrupted breathing during sleep), sleepwalking disorder, restless legs syndrome, and a group of conditions known as circadian rhythm disorders.
Teens And Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is defined by episodes of alcohol intake drastic enough to produce a state of legal drunkenness in two hours or less. People who frequently engage in such episodes significantly increase their chances of developing alcohol use disorder (alcoholism and/or non-addicted alcohol abuse) by consuming enough alcohol to qualify as heavy drinkers.
Serious Risks Of Teen Binge Drinking
Even in an individual who occasionally or rarely binge drinks, the practice can lead to the onset of serious, severe or potentially fatal harms that include:
- physical assaults
- driving while intoxicated
- involvement in car crashes or other accidents
- sexual assaults
- alcohol poisoning
- participation in unprotected sex
Unfortunately, in the U.S., more than 90 percent of all alcohol consumption among teenagers and other underage drinkers occurs during bouts of alcohol binging.
Sleep-Related Problems And Risky Teen Drinking
In the study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, the Idaho State University researchers used data from a long-term project called the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to explore the impact that insomnia and other sleep-related issues have on teenagers’ chances of binging on alcohol and experiencing damaging drinking outcomes. This ongoing project tracks thousands of teenagers over the course of their lives and examines the various health challenges they face over time. The Idaho State researchers gathered information from 6,504 participants in three early phases of the National Longitudinal Study.
The researchers preliminarily concluded that roughly 10 percent of the teen study participants had cases of ongoing or chronic insomnia. Another 30 percent of the participants had cases of intermittent or occasional insomnia. When they compared the frequency of insomnia and other sleeping difficulties in the early stages of adolescence to the rate of binge drinking involvement in later stages of adolescence, the researchers concluded that teenagers affected by sleeping problems are statistically substantially more likely to start binging on alcohol than their counterparts unaffected by sleeping problems.
The researchers also concluded that teens with sleeping problems have a significantly higher level of exposure to a range of harms associated with binge drinking, including driving while intoxicated, getting involved in risky sexual situations and being injured while under the influence of alcohol. In addition, they concluded that teenagers affected by insomnia and other sleep problems have a greater chance of getting involved in the use of illegal or illicit substances, as well as a greater chance of experiencing significant problems related to the intake of illegal/illicit substances.