Are you worried your teenage son or daughter might abuse alcohol or drugs?

If you are, it might be a good idea to pay attention to how well your child sleeps.

Research suggests that poor sleep is an early warning sign for future problems including alcohol and drug dependency and risky sexual behaviour.

Scientists in the US studied more than 6,500 American adolescents. They found those who slept badly were more likely to go on to take drugs or misuse alcohol than those who regularly got a good night’s sleep.

Lead researcher Maria Wong said: “Most of the time we don’t think sleep is important but our results show sleep is a good marker of some serious later problems.”

The study tracked sleep habits as well as drug and alcohol use over an eight-year period. Those who slept badly at the beginning of the research period were most likely to have drug and alcohol problems both at the time they were first questioned and later on.

Young people who suffered from insomnia at least once a week were more likely to binge drink or take illegal drugs when they were older than those who slept soundly. And the worse the sleep disorder, the more likely the participants were to misuse substances in years to come.

Don’t underestimate importance of a good night’s sleep

The teenagers who experienced problems falling asleep almost every day were 33% more likely to develop a drug or alcohol problem than those who easily went to sleep. And going to bed late and not getting enough sleep at night also increased the risk of future substance abuse.

Independent sleep researcher Dr Neil Stanley, told the BBC: “Even without a medical condition such as insomnia, many teenagers get less sleep than they need each night just because of life – computers etc – getting in the way.

“But this study builds on previous research that shows a lack of sleep can seriously impair judgement. And this is particularly important for adolescents who are more prone to risk taking and willing to experiments with alcohol and drugs.”

If you are concerned your teenager may have already taken drugs, you may want to consider asking them to take a drugs test so you can find out for sure. Drugs tests allow you to get clear answers on someone’s drug use and hair strand tests like those offered by AlphaBiolabs allow you to see what substances have been taken over a period of months.

The accredited UK testing laboratory also offers a range of alcohol tests to give you peace of mind or the answers you need to seek appropriate help and support for your loved one.