Inadequate Sleep Linked to Injury-Related Risk Behaviors Among High School Students

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Anne G. Wheaton, Ph.D.
Epidemiologist
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Division of Population Health
Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch
Atlanta, GA  30341-3717 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Wheaton: Unintentional injury, mostly from motor vehicle crashes, is the leading cause of death for adolescents. Adolescents who do not get enough sleep are at an increased risk for motor vehicle crashes and other unintentional injury, such as sports injuries and occupational injuries. We evaluated the association between self-reported sleep duration on an average school night and several injury-related risk behaviors (infrequent bicycle helmet use, infrequent seatbelt use, riding with a driver who had been drinking, drinking and driving, and texting while driving) among more than 50 thousand US high school students.

The likelihood of each of five injury-related risk behaviors (infrequent bicycle helmet use, infrequent seatbelt use, riding with a driver who had been drinking, drinking and driving, and texting while driving) was significantly higher for students sleeping ≤7 hours on an average school night compared with 9 hours. Infrequent seatbelt use, riding with a drinking driver, and drinking and driving were also more likely for students sleeping ≥10 hours compared to 9 hours on an average school night. Although short and long sleep may simply be associated with other adolescent risk behaviors, insufficient sleep may cause individuals to take more risks and disregard the possibility of negative consequences. However, the study was cross-sectional, meaning the students were asked questions at one time point, so it is not possible to determine if there is a cause and effect association between sleep and these risk behaviors. Insufficient sleep may contribute to injury risk directly by slowing reaction time, impairing ability to pay attention, or causing a driver to fall asleep, but these results provide evidence that some of the increased risk associated with insufficient sleep might be due to engaging in injury-related risk behaviors.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Wheaton: Clinicians can educate their young patients about the importance of getting adequate sleep for their health and safety and encourage good sleep habits such as sticking to a regular sleep schedule (including on the weekend), minimizing light exposure in the evenings that makes it harder to fall asleep, and keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom. Clinicians can also address the issue of teen driving (http://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey/peds/index.html).

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Wheaton: More work is needed in developing effective interventions to improve adolescent sleep.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Citation:

Sleep Duration and Injury-Related Risk Behaviors Among High School Students — United States, 2007–2013

Anne G. Wheaton, PhD1; Emily O’Malley Olsen, MSPH2; Gabrielle F. Miller, PhD1; Janet B. Croft, PhD1

MMWR April 8 2016

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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