A study has found that sleep quality and sleep duration in late childhood can predict alcohol and drug use later in adolescence. The study, published Monday in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, was led by researchers from the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine and the Pitt Department of Psychology.

“Treating problems with drugs and alcohol once they exist and preventing them can be challenging, and we are always looking for modifiable risk factors,” lead author of the study Brant P. Hasler said in a statement. “Doing what we can to ensure sufficient sleep duration and improve sleep quality during late childhood may have benefits in terms of reducing the use of these substances later in life.”

Researchers studied 186 boys from western Pennsylvania. They analyzed the responses to the Child Sleep Questionnaire that the boys’ mothers completed, which is also part of a larger research that looks into the vulnerability and resilience of low-income boys.

The quality of sleep of the boys at the age of 11 years was determined using the responses to the questionnaire, and they were interviewed at the ages 20 and 22 years regarding their use of marijuana and alcohol.

Researchers accounted for race, socioeconomic differences, neighborhood problems, self-regulation and other factors when they discovered the link between sleep quality and substance use. They found that boys who slept the least were more likely to report early use of alcohol or marijuana, intoxication and repeated substance use. The findings indicated a 20 percent acceleration to the first use of marijuana or alcohol associated with every hour of sleep lost during late childhood.

“After considering other possible influences, we were able to determine that sleep problems are preceding the substance use problems,” Hasler said. “Addressing sleep may now be something we can add into the package of our substance abuse prevention and treatment efforts.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people aged between 12 and 20 years consume 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the country. There were nearly 189,000 emergency room visits concerning issues related to underage drinking in 2010.