Sleep Loss, Marijuana Use Linked in Teen Social Networks

SATURDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) — In a study of so-called “contagious” behavior, U.S. researchers have found a link between sleep deprivation and drug use in teen social networks.

Previous studies have shown that behaviors such as happiness, obesity and smoking can spread within adult social networks. This means your behavior can influence your friends, then their friends, and so on.

In this new study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Harvard University mapped the social networks of 8,349 students in grades 7 through 12 and found that the spread of sleep deprivation in teen social networks was associated with the spread of marijuana use. This effect extended up to four degrees of separation (to one’s friends’ friends’ friends’ friends).

The researchers also discovered that teens at the center of a social network are at greater risk of poor sleep and therefore more likely to use marijuana, according to the report published online March 19 in the journal PLoS One.

“Our behaviors are connected to each other and we need to start thinking about how one behavior affects our lives on many levels,” research team leader Sara C. Mednick, an assistant professor of psychiatry, said in a UCSD news release.

“Therefore, when parents, schools and law enforcement want to look for ways to influence one outcome, such as drug use, our research suggests that targeting another behavior, like sleep, may have a positive influence. They should be promoting healthy sleep habits that eliminate behaviors which interfere with sleep: take the TV out of the child’s bedroom, limit computer and phone usage to daytime and early evening hours, and promote napping.”

More information

The National Sleep Foundation has more about teens and sleep.