While alcohol in the form of a "night cap" may be able to help an individual fall asleep, its pharmacological properties later disrupt the rapid eye movement (REM) and deeper, more restorative stages of sleep. Sleep problems also predict the onset of alcohol abuse in healthy adults and relapse in abstinent alcoholics. A new study of associations among pubertal development, sleep preferences and problems, and alcohol use in early adolescence has found that puberty is related to sleep problems and later bedtimes, which were in turn associated with alcohol use.
Results will be published in the September 2010 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.
Sara Pieters, MSc, a doctoral student in neuropsychology at the University Nijmegen and corresponding author for the study, and her colleagues used data collected from a larger study of 725 children in grades one through six in five participating Dutch schools. For this study, questionnaire data from 431 adolescents (236 girls, 195 boys) aged 11 to 14 years of age were analyzed for associations, if these associations changed vis-à-vis adolescent internalizing and externalizing problems, and if they were influenced by gender.
"Our results indicated that puberty was related to sleep problems and more evening-type tendencies such as favoring later bedtimes, which in turn were positively related to early adolescent alcohol use," said Pieters. "Underlying psychopathology, gender, and educational level did not change these relationships, meaning that these factors are not the explanatory mechanism behind this relation. From this study, it can be concluded that both puberty and sleep regulation are important factors in explaining alcohol use in early adolescence."