Teens' lack of sleep tied to high blood pressure, more body fat

June 20, 2018 in Heart Health, Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News

Teens' lack of sleep tied to high blood pressure, more body fat

Adolescents who don’t get enough sleep may be more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure and excess body fat, a U.S. study from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston suggests. 

The research team asked 829 teens to wear activity trackers on their wrists to log nighttime sleep and daytime activity for 7 to 10 days. They also examined risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes by measuring teens’ waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

Overall, half of the teens slept for at least 7.4 hours a night. Only 2 percent of them got the recommended minimum 8 hours a night (ages 14 to 17) or 9 hours (ages 11 to 13). 

Most participants had what would be considered “low sleep efficiency,” because after falling asleep, they stayed asleep for only about 84 percent of the time. 

More sleep tied to better blood pressure, cholesterol, waist size

Longer sleep and higher sleep efficiency - that is, staying asleep for more of the time - were associated with lower blood pressure, smaller waist circumference, less fat mass and lower cholesterol levels.

While plenty of previous research has linked insufficient sleep to a wide range of health problems including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and mood disorders, many of these studies have focused on adults or failed to objectively measure sleep. 

Interestingly, many of the relationships observed in this study were independent of diet quality and physical activity as well as overall body fatness, which are some of the main pathways through which inadequate sleep is thought to influence cardiovascular health risk. 

Study limitations

The wasn’t a randomized controlled experiment designed to prove that sleep quantity or quality impacts cardiometabolic risk factors in teenagers.

It’s also unclear whether poor sleep might have caused health problems like excess fat or high blood pressure, or whether underlying medical conditions might have compromised teens’ ability to sleep. 

Even so, the findings underscore the broad influence sleep can have on other aspects of adolescent health. 

A lack of sleep increases hunger by affecting the appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin, which can lead to overeating and weight gain. Not getting enough sleep can also make you feel tired and stressed, draining physical and mental energy to exercise regularly and to stick to a healthy diet.

Source: Pediatrics, online June 15, 2018

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