Food and Behaviour Research

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Sleep patterns and problems among early adolescents: Associations with alcohol use

Marmorstein NR (2017) Addict Behav.  2017 Mar; 66: 13-16. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2016.11.002. 

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Sleep and sleep-related problems are associated with alcohol use and related problems among adults. However, existing research on associations between sleep and alcohol use among early adolescents is minimal, and potential individual and family factors that may affect this association remain largely unexplored. We examined potential associations between frequency of alcohol use and initial insomnia, subjective daytime sleepiness, sleep irregularity, and disturbed sleep among a low-income, ethnic minority sample of early adolescents; we also considered whether psychopathology symptoms and/or parental monitoring accounted for any associations found.


127 youth who participated in the Camden Youth Development Study (64 male; mean age=13.2; 71% Hispanic, 32% African-American) were assessed using self-report measures of sleep, alcohol use, psychopathology symptoms (depressive and conduct disorder), and parental monitoring; in addition, teacher reports of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder were used.


Initial insomnia and daytime sleepiness (but not sleep irregularity or disturbed sleep) were associated with frequency of alcohol use. The association between initial insomnia and alcohol use remained significant when each form of psychopathology and parental monitoring were adjusted for.


Among early adolescents, frequency of alcohol use is associated with initial insomnia, even once symptoms of psychopathology and family environment (parental monitoring) are adjusted for. Longitudinal research investigating the direction of this effect and other possible mediators and moderators would be useful in developing preventative and treatment interventions.