Young people who go to bed later drink and smoke more due to their impulsivity

December 14, 2020

Young people who prefer to stay up late are more impulsive than their peers who go to bed earlier, which makes them more likely to drink alcohol and smoke, a new study in the journal Chronobiology International, reports.

In the first study of its kind, researchers from the University of Surrey and Brunel University London investigated how being an evening type (someone who prefers to stay up late and functions better in the evening) links to impulsivity, anxiety, and substance use. Young people often prefer to stay up late, and those who do are known to be at higher risk of mental health issues and problematic substance use.

To better understand why this is, researchers recruited 191 participants aged between 18-25 years old. Participants were surveyed on their sleeping preference (morning or evening types), their sleep quality, levels of anxiety and impulsivity, and asked about how many cigarettes they smoked and how much alcohol, coffee, and other caffeinated drinks they consumed.

A lab-based computer test was also used to test impulsivity levels. Participants were required to indicate how long they were willing to wait before receiving a hypothetical cash reward. Researchers found that evening types were more impulsive, preferring small immediate rewards over delayed larger ones. These young adult evening types were also more anxious and reported higher alcohol, caffeine and cigarette use compared to their peers who preferred going to bed earlier. Lower sleep quality did not explain these effects; to see what could, researchers used a statistical method known as mediation analysis, which found that higher levels of impulsivity were the link between being an evening type and greater alcohol, caffeine, and cigarette use.

Researchers believe that by understanding what causes young people to smoke and drink more, we can educate them more effectively about risk factors and design strategies to combat problematic substance use.

Dr Simon Evans, Lecturer in Neuroscience at the University of Surrey, said: "Young people who stay up late and claim they function best in the evening are known to have higher alcohol intake, smoke more cigarettes and are at greater risk of mental health issues. What we have found is that their higher levels of substance use are due to their increased impulsivity levels. The consequences of high levels of substance use can be detrimental to long term physical and mental health, and these findings suggest ways we could reduce risky substance use behaviours in young people."

Dr Ray Norbury, Senior lecturer in Psychology at Brunel University London, said: "We found that the tendency to be a night owl was associated with higher levels of anxiety, impulsivity and alcohol and cigarette use. What we don't know is if night owls are more likely to engage with these harmful behaviours because they are already out late and so may just have more exposure to opportunities to drink and smoke or whether the addictive behaviours (the stimulant effects of smoking for instance) drive them to be up late.

"Clearly, this study has implications for both the mental and physical health of our student populations. It may be that simple interventions to improve sleep hygiene could reduce substance use and anxiety in these young and potentially vulnerable adults."
-end-


University of Surrey

Related Mental Health Articles from Brightsurf:

Mental health strained by disaster
A new study found that suicide rates increase during all types of disasters -- including severe storms, floods, hurricanes and ice storms -- with the largest overall increase occurring two years after a disaster.

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

World Mental Health Day -- CACTUS releases report of largest researcher mental health survey
On the occasion of 'World Mental Health Day' 2020, CACTUS, a global scientific communications company, has released a global survey on mental health, wellbeing and fulfilment in academia.

Mental illness, mental health care use among police officers
A survey study of Texas police officers examines how common mental illness and mental health care use are in a large urban department.

COVID-19 outbreak and mental health
The use of online platforms to guide effective consumption of information, facilitate social support and continue mental health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic is discussed in this Viewpoint.

COVID-19 may have consequences for mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be adversely affecting mental health among hospitalised patients, the healthcare professionals treating them and the general population.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental ill health 'substantial health concern' among police, finds international study
Mental health issues among police officers are a 'substantial health concern,' with around 1 in 4 potentially drinking at hazardous levels and around 1 in 7 meeting the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder and depression, finds a pooled data analysis of the available international evidence, published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Examining health insurance nondiscrimination policies with mental health among gender minority individuals
A large private health insurance database was used to examine the association between between health insurance nondiscrimination policies and mental health outcomes for gender minority individuals.

Mental health care for adolescents
Researchers examined changes over time in the kinds of mental health problems for which adolescents in the United States received care and where they got that care in this survey study with findings that should be interpreted within the context of several limitations including self-reported information.

Read More: Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.