HEALTH SPOTLIGHT: Sleep-Deprived Teens More Apt to Drink, Smoke and Have Unsafe Sex

By  //  October 19, 2018

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make sure your adolescent gets enough sleep

There are more and more reports emerging of the bad effects of teens not getting enough sleep, one cause of which is their use of digital devices at night time.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Space Coast Daily is delighted to welcome Dr. Christopher Johnson as a guest contributor on issues of child health and well-being. With 35 years of experience practicing pediatrics, pediatric critical care (intensive care), and pediatric emergency room care he is committed to educating parents on how best to meet the needs of the ill and injured child in today’s often confusing and complex healthcare system.

Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief

That’s a show stopper of a headline from Reuters. There are more and more reports emerging of the bad effects of adolescents not getting enough sleep.

The research has become sufficiently compelling that many high schools, including the one my son attends, have shifted their starting times to a bit later in the morning. More sleep clearly improves learning.

But this new study flips things around and focuses on the bad social results of not getting enough sleep.

The study authors use the more mundane title of “Dose-dependent associations between sleep duration and unsafe behaviors among US high school students.”

It was a very large survey study (over 67,000 subjects) spanning the years 2007-15. The survey correlated risky behaviors with hours of sleep. One of the things that makes it a particularly strong study is that it showed a dose relationship. That is, if one thing is related to another, one typically sees more of it as the dose, in this case sleep deprivation, increases.

Teens who got seven hours of sleep a night or less were 28 percent more likely to drink and 13 percent more likely to smoke.

The threshold for seeing the ill effects of insufficient sleep was found to be 8 hours. Teens who got seven hours of sleep a night or less were 28 percent more likely to drink, 13 percent more likely to smoke, and 17 percent more likely to try drugs other than marijuana, compared with adolescents who got at least eight hours of shut-eye.

Of course, there are potential confounders, as with any study that suggests an association but not necessarily causality. That is, a family situation in which a child doesn’t get enough sleep may simply be associated with risky behavior rather than causing it. But my conclusion is that, although this association was a bit weak, it was consistent and showed a dose relationship. It’s just one more reason to make sure your adolescent gets enough sleep.

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Christopher Johnson, MD

Dr. Christopher Johnson received his undergraduate education in history and religion at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1974. He earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1978 from Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minnesota, then trained in general pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, followed by training in pediatric infectious diseases, hematology research, and pediatric critical care medicine at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. Dr. Johnson is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in general pediatrics and in pediatric critical care medicine and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Johnson, who has been named to a list of  The 50 Best Mayo Clinic Doctors — Ever,” devotes his time to practicing pediatric critical care as President of Pediatric Intensive Care Associates, P.C., as Medical Director of the PICU for CentraCare Health Systems, and to writing about medicine for general readers. His popular website/blog and four books provide a wealth of information and answers to practical questions related to child health issues.