Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 379–388 | Cite as

Prospective Relationships Between Sleep Problems and Substance Use, Internalizing and Externalizing Problems

  • Sara PietersEmail author
  • William J. Burk
  • Haske Van der Vorst
  • Ronald E. Dahl
  • Reinout W. Wiers
  • Rutger C. M. E. Engels
Empirical Research


While research has shown that sleep problems and substance use are reciprocally associated in adults, much less is known about this association in early adolescence. The main aim of the current longitudinal study was to explore bidirectional relationships between sleep problems, substance use, internalizing and externalizing problems in young adolescents. A prospective design was used incorporating two waves (approximately 1 year interval). A total of 555 young adolescents (290 females, M age = 13.96) participated in this study. All participants completed self-report measures in classrooms during regular school hours (questionnaires about sleep quality and sleep hygiene were used to measure sleep problems). The results indicated that sleep problems predicted changes in substance use, internalizing and externalizing problems over time, but problem behaviours did not predict changes in sleep problems, adjusted for gender, age and puberty. One exception was that alcohol use negatively predicted changes in sleep problems. This study suggests that sleep problems are important precursors of substance use, internalizing and externalizing problems in adolescence.


Sleep problems Substance use Internalizing problems Externalizing problems Early adolescence 



The work was performed when the first author was affiliated with the Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. This institute also provided the financial support for this work.

Authors’ Contributions

SP was involved in the design of the study, the coordination of the study, conducted the measurements, ran the statistical analyses, interpreted data and wrote the draft of the manuscript; WB was involved in the design of the study, the coordination of the study, ran the statistical analyses, interpreted data and wrote the draft of the manuscript; HV was involved in the design of the study, the coordination of the study, interpreted data and wrote the draft of the manuscript; RD was involved in the design of the study, interpreted data and wrote the draft of the manuscript; RW was involved in the design of the study, the coordination of the study, interpreted data and wrote the draft of the manuscript; RE was involved in the design of the study, the coordination of the study, interpreted data and wrote the draft of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Conflict of interest

None of the authors declares a conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara Pieters
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • William J. Burk
    • 1
  • Haske Van der Vorst
    • 1
  • Ronald E. Dahl
    • 2
  • Reinout W. Wiers
    • 3
  • Rutger C. M. E. Engels
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioural Science InstituteRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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