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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Brown: Adequate Sleep Moderates the Prospective Association between Alcohol Use and Consequences

Recent data suggests about 65% of college students drink alcohol in a given month, while almost half of students do so to excess, or what is called “binge” drinking. These proportions are especially concerning given excessive alcohol use places many college students at risk for negative consequences including academic difficulties, mental health problems, injury, and even death.

Miller, Mary Beth

[Photo: Dr. Mary Beth Miller]

One potential risk factor that might be related to negative drinking-related outcomes is sleep. The purpose of this study, led by Dr. Mary Beth Miller, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, was to determine the moderating effect of adequate sleep on the association between weekly drinking quantity and negative alcohol-related consequences.

To explore this relationship, the researchers examined a population of college students who were mandated to an alcohol prevention intervention. As part of this intervention, they were required to report their drinks consumed per week, perceptions of sleep adequacy, and alcohol-related consequences at baseline as well as one-, three-, and five-month assessments.

Both baseline drinks per week and levels of adequate sleep predicted alcohol-related consequences at baseline and one-month follow-up, where higher levels of drinks per week and lower levels of adequate sleep predicted more negative alcohol related-consequences. Drinks per week remained a significant predictor at three- and five-month follow-ups, but sleep adequacy did not. Sleep adequacy significantly moderated the relationship between drinks per week and alcohol-related consequences at all time points, where this relationship was much stronger in those who reported inadequate sleep.

Given over half of the sample reported obtaining adequate sleep “sometimes” or “never”, and over half of college students report daytime sleepiness, these results have significant implications. Improving sleep adequacy may be an important step in the efforts to reduce negative alcohol-related consequences in college students.

This study was published in Addictive Behaviors, Volume 63, 2016.

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