The link between teens, insomnia and substance abuse


There is no denying that a teenager can lead a lifestyle just as busy as an adult. However, in more severe cases, this can lead to sleep becoming something of a last priority. As a result, insomnia can occur and lead to a number of problems in the adolescent’s academic and personal life. Now, a new study shows that sleeplessness at this age could be related to substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and depression.

Sleep study

One study was published in the journal Sleep, which revealed that insomnia can lead to health disorders, such as depression. The researchers also found higher instances of alcohol, cannabis and other controlled substance usage among insomniacs. Higher instances of suicidal ideation and behavior were also reported. Students who suffered from anxiety comprised 10 percent of the participants in the study. The entire study consisted of nearly 5,000 young people, ages 12 to 18. Then, a follow up study years later looked at the same subjects from ages 18 to 25.

The research defined insomnia as being insufficient sleep on a daily or almost daily basis. In the study, there was a total of approximately 150 participants from the United States. These subjects were chosen based on a wide range of characteristics. For instance, whether the student was in middle school or high school, lived in an urban area, or was Caucasian or African American were considered. The curriculum of the school also factored in as a consideration. Each student was also evaluated for a number of different physical variables including weight, height and mental health wellness to identify any debilitating health conditions.

Causes of insomnia

A number of different factors can play a role in teen insomnia including diet, stress, the pressures of academic performance and social acceptance of peers. Major alterations in the teen’s living situation or home life can also play a role. Other sleep disorders can also lead to increased levels of insomnia such as restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.

Though parents should not jump to conclusions without reasonable evidence, alcohol and substance abuse can cause insomnia. As with adults, drinking excessively will cause sleep to be interrupted for trips to the bathroom and the use of stimulants will naturally inhibit sleeping ability. This also goes for cigarette smoking, which as a stimulant that can also make rest more difficult.

If a teen has been suffering from insomnia, then he or she could choose to take a nap after school. However, the duration of the nap should be minimized to ensure it doesn’t interfere with the teen’s regular sleep schedule. Otherwise, the insomnia could continue to persist into the following night as a result.

Parents should also be aware of sleep deprivation and how it differs from insomnia. The teen could be suffering from this condition instead. In this case, the adolescent could be drinking caffeinated beverages or energy drinks to stay up at night to study for an exam. Parents should also be aware of teens who watch excessive amounts of television or spend too much time online or on their phones throughout the night.

Insomnia prevention

Thankfully, there are a number of methods parents can take advantage of to help teens overcome insomnia. This includes determining a standard sleep schedule and sticking to it over the course of time. This sleeping schedule should be between seven to nine hours in length. In addition, it is important to avoid certain activities before bed, such as schoolwork, video games, Internet usage or watching television. Instead, the period before bed should be quiet and calming. Any drinks with caffeine or sugar, bright lighting and unnecessary noise distractions should be avoided.

Adolescents can also be tempted to resort to sleep aids if they are having difficulties. However, depending on sleeping pills only offer temporary relief without providing an actual solution. There are a number of sleep aids that can prove unhealthy if taken on a regular basis, especially those that contain acetaminophen. This ingredient, found in many nighttime cold pills, is dangerous to the liver if taken in large amounts. On the other hand, more natural options, such as melatonin, are safer to use occasionally. If your teen is suffering from insomnia or a mood disorder, White River Academy employs proven therapeutic treatment that can help. Please contact us today at 866-520-0905 to learn more.

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