College students who drink to excess are more likely to black out, engage in impulsive behavior, and ignore obligations to friends or family if they also experience sleep disturbances, a new Yale study has found.
In fact, sleep difficulties may help identify students most at need for counseling for drug or alcohol abuse, the authors say.
“We have found that students are more open to seeking help for sleep disorders than for substance abuse counseling,” said Kelly S. DeMartini, associate research scientist in psychiatry and co-author of the study appearing in the journal Health Psychology. “The hope is this in turn will increase openness for intervention in other areas of their lives as well.”
The Yale team studied more than 300 college student drinkers who consumed an average of 21 drinks a week and were deemed at-risk drinkers. Those who had the most evidence of sleep disorders — failing to get out of bed in the morning, missing classes, or falling a sleep during the day — also suffered the most serious consequences from their drinking.
“This group blacked out more often, acted more impulsively and destructively, and tended to find themselves in sexual situations they regretted,” said Lisa M. Fucito, assistant professor of psychiatry and co-author of the study.
The co-authors are now developing a combined alcohol and sleep intervention for college student drinkers in a pilot study funded by the recently created Yale Center for Sleep Disturbance in Acute and Chronic Conditions.