Teens Sleeping Less Than 8 Hours a Night More Likely to Drink, Take Drugs, Contemplate Suicide

According to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens that get less than eight hours of sleep on school nights are more likely to smoke, drink and fight and engage in other risky behavior.

“Lack of adequate sleep can be a warning sign for parents that their teens have other problems,” the study’s lead author told Reuters on Monday.

Published online by the Preventive Medicine Journal from CDC, the study is believed to be the first large national survey of its kind.

In a survey of more than 12,000 teens, 68.9 percent reported that they sleep less than eight hours on an average school night. According to the study, in 10 of 11 categories, the students that slept less were more likely to engage in risky behavior than other students who slept more than eight hours on school nights.

These behaviors include smoking cigarettes and marijuana, and drinking alcohol.

According to the survey findings, sleep-deprived teens are not only more likely to engage in risky behavior but also more likely to not engage in healthy behavior. For example, students who slept fewer hours were less likely to exercise.

For the study, the investigators analyzed the results of a 2007 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey of high school students who were polled about their sleep habits. The survey found that nearly 70 percent of the teens were not getting the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended eight or more hours of sleep on weeknights.

"Public health intervention is greatly needed, and the consideration of delayed school start times may hold promise as one effective step in a comprehensive approach to address this problem," said Lela McKnight-Eilya, a clinical psychologist and epidemiologist at CDC.

Among these findings were results that showed sleepy teens are more sexually active, more likely to fight and contemplate suicide. They also were most likely to use computers more than three hours a day.

"I definitely wouldn't ignore it," said added McKnight-Eilya, "I think it's important for parents and adolescents themselves to both be aware of the issue and what can be associated with it."