Associations of Longitudinal Sleep Trajectories with Risky Sexual Behavior During Late Adolescence

Published in: Health Psychology (2019). doi:10.1037/hea0000753

Posted on RAND.org on June 12, 2019

by Wendy M. Troxel, Anthony Rodriguez, Rachana Seelam, Joan S. Tucker, Regina A. Shih, Elizabeth J. D'Amico

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Objective

The current study examines longitudinal sleep patterns in relation to risky sexual behaviors in a racially/ethnically diverse sample of adolescents.

Method

The sample comprises 1,850 youth (mean age at first wave = 16.21; 57% female). Sleep duration, sleep variability (difference between weekend and weekday sleep duration), and sleep quality were collected over four annual assessments from 2013 to 2017. Risky sexual behaviors (i.e., sex without condom use or sex after using drugs or alcohol) were examined at the fourth follow-up assessment when youth were 19 years old. Longitudinal latent class analysis characterized patterns of individual sleep dimensions over time, as well as the combination of sleep dimensions, and examined how emergent sleep classes associated with subsequent risky sexual behavior, after adjustment for sociodemographics and mental health.

Results

After covariate adjustment, persistent "short" weekend sleepers were 2.2 times more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, compared to youth with sufficient weekend sleep duration. Contrary to expectations, adolescents with more consistent weekend/weekday sleep were 1.6-2 times more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, compared to those with greater variability; however, lack of variability may be an indicator of chronic insufficient sleep, both weekdays and weekends. There were no significant differences in risky sexual behavior according to classes of weekday sleep duration or quality. In the combined class model, those with persistently short and poor-quality sleep were at marginally greater risk for engaging in risky sexual behaviors.

Conclusion

Insufficient sleep in adolescents may increase risk for sexual risk-taking and may set the stage for accelerated health risk trajectories into adulthood.

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