Effects of emerging alcohol use on developmental trajectories of functional sleep measures in adolescents

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Kiss O, Goldstone A, de Zambotti M, Yüksel D, Hasler BP, Franzen PL, Brown SA, De Bellis MD, Nagel BJ, Nooner KB, Tapert SF, Colrain IM, Clark DB, Baker FC. Effects of emerging alcohol use on developmental trajectories of functional sleep measures in adolescents. Sleep. 2023 Apr 14:zsad113. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsad113. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37058610.


Study objectives

Adolescence is characterized by significant brain development, accompanied by changes in sleep timing and architecture. It also is a period of profound psychosocial changes, including the initiation of alcohol use; however, it is unknown how alcohol use affects sleep architecture in the context of adolescent development. We tracked developmental changes in polysomnographic (PSG) and electroencephalographic (EEG) sleep measures and their relationship with emergent alcohol use in adolescents considering confounding effects (e.g., cannabis use).


Adolescents (n=94, 43% female, age: 12-21 years) in the National Consortium on Alcohol and Neurodevelopment in Adolescence (NCANDA) study had annual laboratory PSG recordings across 4-years. Participants were no/low drinkers at baseline.


Linear mixed effect models showed developmental changes in sleep macro-structure and EEG, including a decrease in slow wave sleep and slow wave (delta) EEG activity with advancing age. Emergent moderate/heavy alcohol use across the four follow-up years was associated with a decline in percentage rapid eye movement (REM) sleep over time, a longer sleep onset latency and shorter total sleep time in older adolescents, and lower non-REM delta and theta power in males.


These longitudinal data show substantial developmental changes in sleep architecture. Emergent alcohol use during this period was associated with altered sleep continuity, architecture, and EEG measures, with some effects dependent on age and sex. These effects, in part, could be attributed to the effects of alcohol on underlying brain maturation processes involved in sleep-wake regulation.

Keywords: REM sleep; adolescence; alcohol use; electroencephalogram; longitudinal; sex differences; slow wave activity.

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