An image of good sleeping habits. It depicts a close up shot of a young boy, asleep in bed.

Can your child’s sleeping habits lead them to make negative life choices?

The importance of sleep is crucial to our development and well-being. Unfortunately, for many people in America, our sleeping habits are not the best. This is especially true in the early years of our lives. Growing adolescents need rest and when they don’t receive the proper amount, it can lead to dire consequences. As the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) recently discovered, there may be a relation between a child’s sleeping habits and their likelihood to abuse substances.

The Importance of Good Sleeping Habits

The study by the UPMC showed that children who do not sleep enough and experience poor sleep quality are more likely to try alcohol and cannabis. Many years ago, the mothers of 186 boys completed a Child Sleep Questionnaire when the children were 11 years old. Researchers followed up with these boys about their use of cannabis and alcohol after they turned 20 years old.

It was after this follow-up that the researchers saw the link between sleeping habits and substance abuse. In fact, they estimated that the for every hour less of sleep that an 11-year old boy received, the earlier they were likely to use these substances. This lack of sleep is more of a risk for kids during late childhood. It is also a situation that some scientists hope they can prevent.

According to Brant P. Hasler, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology, and lead author of the study, “Doing what we can to ensure sufficient sleep duration and improve sleep quality during late childhood may have benefits in terms of reducing the use of these substances later in life.”

While this study proved a need for children to obtain better quality sleep, it only analyzed how a lack of sleep affect young boys. Hopefully, another study will confirm if adolescent girls are affected in the same way. What we do know is that parents need to monitor their child’s sleeping habits.