Self-Medication for Sleep in College Students: Concurrent and Prospective Associations With Sleep and Alcohol Behavior

Patricia A. Goodhines, Les A. Gellis, Jueun Kim, Lisa M. Fucito, Aesoon Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Objective/Background: College students are at an increased risk for poor sleep and associated sleep problems. Emerging evidence suggests that a substantial subset of college students self-medicate with alcohol, marijuana, or over-the-counter medications to help sleep. The current study identified demographic, psychosocial, and sleep- and alcohol-related correlates of self-medication for sleep, and assessed its concurrent and prospective associations with insomnia symptoms, alcohol drinking, and negative drinking consequences. Participants: Undergraduate students (N = 171; mean age = 19 years [SD = 1.35], 32% male, 74% White) enrolled in a four-year university in the northeastern United States. Methods: Data were drawn from a short-term two-wave longitudinal study. Participants completed two online surveys, separated by an average interval of 68 days (SD = 10.22). Results: At Time 1, 25% of students reported using at least one substance (alcohol, marijuana, or over-the-counter medications) for sleep aid in the past two weeks. Male and older students were more likely to report using substances for sleep. Sleep aid use at Time 1 was concurrently associated with greater levels of alcohol frequency, negative drinking consequences, and insomnia symptoms. Further, sleep aid use at Time 1 was associated with an increase in negative drinking consequences from Time 1 to Time 2, but not with changes in alcohol frequency or insomnia symptoms. Conclusions: These findings indicate that substances are widely used among college students for sleep aid. Sleep aid use is associated with greater concurrent drinking and insomnia symptoms, and increases in negative drinking consequences over a short time period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-341
Number of pages15
JournalBehavioral Sleep Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology


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