Childhood sleep problems, response inhibition, and alcohol and drug outcomes in adolescence and young adulthood

Maria M. Wong, Kirk J. Brower, Joel T. Nigg, Robert A. Zucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

88 Scopus citations


Background: To our knowledge, no prospective studies examine the relationships among childhood sleep problems, adolescent executive functioning, and substance outcomes (i.e., substance use and substance-related problems). In this study, we examined whether childhood sleep problems predicted adolescent sleep problems and response inhibition. We also tested whether adolescent sleep problems and poor response inhibition mediated the relationship between childhood sleep problems and substance (alcohol and drug) outcomes in young adulthood. Methods: Study participants were 292 boys and 94 girls (M = 4.85, SD = 1.47) from a community sample of high-risk families and controls. Results: When compared to their counterparts, those with trouble sleeping in childhood were twice as likely to have the same problem in adolescence. Childhood overtiredness predicted poor response inhibition in adolescence. Persistent trouble sleeping from childhood to adolescence and response inhibition in adolescence mediated the relationship between childhood sleep problems and drug outcomes in young adulthood, whereas overtiredness in childhood directly predicted alcohol use outcomes and alcohol-related problems in young adulthood. Conclusions: This is the first study showing a long-term relationship between childhood sleep measures and subsequent alcohol and drug outcomes. The developmental and clinical implications of these findings were discussed. Prevention and intervention programs may want to consider the role of sleep problems and response inhibition on substance use and abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1033-1044
Number of pages12
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010



  • Alcohol-Related Problems
  • Childhood Sleep Problems
  • Drug-Related Problems
  • Illicit Drug Use
  • Response Inhibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this