A new study has revealed that poor sleep patterns are likely to drive adolescents at the centre of social networks to use drugs, thereby increasing their vulnerability.
Principal researcher Sara C. Mednick, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the VA San Diego Healthcare System, pointed out the spread of one behaviour in social networks - in this case, poor sleep patterns - influences the spread of another behaviour, adolescent drug use.
Mednick said: "This is our first investigation of the spread of illegal drug use in social networks. We believe it is also the first study in any age population on the spread of sleep behaviours through social networks."
Mednick and colleagues James H. Fowler, UCSD Department of Political Science and Nicholas A. Christakis, Harvard Medical School, discovered clusters of poor sleep behaviour and marijuana use that extended up to four degrees of separation in the social network.
Mednick explained: "Our behaviours are connected to each other and we need to start thinking about how one behaviour affects our lives on many levels. Therefore, when parents, schools and law enforcement want to look for ways to influence one outcome, such as drug use, our research suggests that targeting another behaviour, like sleep, may have a positive influence. They should be promoting healthy sleep habits that eliminate behaviours which interfere with sleep: take the TV out of the child's bedroom, limit computer and phone usage to daytime and early evening hours, and promote napping."
The study was due to be published in PLoS One.