The study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The researchers mapped the social networks of 8,349 teens. The students filled out questionnaires. They also named up to five male and five female friends in their social network.
Students had an average age of 16 years at the start of the study. They reported that they usually got an average of 7.8 hours of sleep per night.
Results show that a teen was 11 percent more likely to report sleeping seven hours or less if a friend usually slept for seven hours or less. This effect increased to 20 percent when the friendship was mutual.
Further analyses found that a teen was 19 percent more likely to use marijuana if a friend usually slept for seven hours or less. Twenty percent of this effect came from the spread of sleep behavior from one person to another.
This effect was additive. The rate of marijuana use increased with each additional friend who was a short sleeper.
"The evidence suggests that poor sleep leads to drug use in adolescents, and that both sleep and drug use spread through social networks,” the authors concluded.
They suggested that poor sleep may promote drug use by affecting how teens make decisions. Poor sleep in teens has been shown to reduce impulse control. They also wrote that poor sleep may affect teen alcohol use in similar ways.
The NIDA reports that marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the U.S. A recent survey found that 42 percent of 12th-graders had tried marijuana at least once. Eighteen percent of 12th graders and 14 percent of 10th graders had used it within the past month.
Last year a study found that childhood sleep problems were more likely to predict early onset of substance use in boys than girls. Sleep problems between 3 and 8 years of age predicted the onset of alcohol, cigarette and marijuana use among boys.
Get help for your teen’s sleep problems at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you. Get Facts Parents Need to Know and Facts for Teens about marijuana from the NIDA.
Read more about sleep and teens.
Image by Spencer Finnley