Could a Lack of Sleep Cause Drug Use in Teens and Young Adults?

pretty college age girl looking tired in brightly composed shot - good sleep

By Sandy Baker

The body needs many things to stay healthy. One of those things is sleep. Teens and young adults need significantly more sleep than adults. When they don’t get enough, they may be at a higher risk of using drugs or alcohol, according to a new study by the University at Buffalo School of Nursing. Specifically, the study found that young people who did not get enough sleep were more likely to smoke or use alcohol, electronic vapor products, and marijuana.

Why Is This Group So Impacted?

Sleep is critical to the function of the body, and young people require up to 10 hours a day. Unfortunately, many young people fall far short of these hours due to many reasons: early school schedules, long nights on the phone with friends, staying out late into the evening. But one primary reason young people miss out on sleep is stress.

Many teens and college students face intense pressure at home and/or school. Teens are trying to keep up their GPA and activities so they can get into a good college. College students face even heavier workloads in addition to learning how to live away from home for the first time. Some students turn to drugs as a way to get through their workload. For example, students who need to study longer and harder to maintain their high grade point average may turn to stimulants for increased energy. Such use can quickly turn into an addiction.

Why Is Sleep So Important?

Most people have experienced bad nights now and then, when sleep is elusive. Others may have ongoing sleep difficulties and insomnia. Consistent lack of sleep creates a very dangerous health crisis for young people. During sleep, the body works to improve and maintain physical and emotional health. When you are asleep, your body is better able to regulate hormones and restore communication in the brain. That way, when you wake up you can communicate, remember, and function at your best.

Good levels of sleep also improve learning. They also help to ensure a person can perform key tasks well. That includes everything from writing that college paper to driving a car. Sleep deprivation leads to the opposite effect. Problem-solving skills are reduced. Physical function is limited.

Sleep also plays a role in physical health:

  • It ensures heart and blood vessels operate properly.
  • It reduces the risk for kidney disease.
  • It affects how the body reacts to insulin, which controls blood sugar and the onset of diabetes.
  • It supports healthy eating habits.
  • It ensures a person can make the right decisions about drug and alcohol use.

Sleep is critical to all functions of the body. If you are not getting enough of it, you could be at risk for turning to drugs and alcohol to help you get through the day.

What Can a High School or College Student Do to Ensure A Good Night’s Rest?

High school or college years do not always seem like the ideal time to sleep. There is so much to do and engage in – friends, studies, and plenty of extracurriculars. Consider a few strategies for ensuring a good night’s rest.

  • Routines matter. Create a routine that you follow every day. Go to bed at the same time each day and get up at the same time. That helps to encourage better quality sleep.
  • Cut off the TV. When you are sleeping, get good sleep. That means keeping noise and distractions at bay.
  • Avoid naps when possible. Though they feel good and may be necessary sometimes, naps may limit the quality of sleep you get at night.

We Can Help

When it comes to sleep, invest in it for your future and your health. And, if you are using drugs and alcohol as a way to manage the demands you face, you can get help for that, too. Our team at The Ranch at Dove Tree offers a emerging adult treatment program that can help college students put the pieces back together to ensure long-term success.

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