Poor Sleep in Adolescents Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Disease
Many people consider sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and snoring an adult health issue. But new research out of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada found that adolescents who sleep poorly may increase their chances of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.
The study was done in partnership with Heart Niagara, Inc., and was led by Dr. Indra Narang, Director of Sleep Medicine and Staff Respirologist at SickKids. The hospital is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals, and is recognized as one of the world’s foremost pediatric health-care institutions.
For the study, researchers looked at 4,104 adolescents in the Healthy Heart Schools’ Program that screens and identifies teens at risk of coronary vascular disease. They wanted to find the link, if any, between poor sleep and the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, high body mass index (BMI), and poor diet.
Participants slept an average of 7.9 hours during the week, and 9.4 hours on weekends. Their sleep patterns, length and quality of sleep were recorded, and data was collected on their BMIs, cholesterol levels and blood pressures. They also found out if any participants had a family history of premature cardiovascular disease.
The results of the study were published in the October 1 addition of the CMAJ — Canadian Medical Association Journal. Almost 20 percent of the adolescents reported poor sleep quality during the week, and 10 percent reported poor sleep quality on weekends. Of the participants, almost 6 percent reported using medications to help them sleep.
From the data collected, the researchers found a link between poor sleep quality — also known as sleep disturbance — and cardiovascular risk in adolescents, based on high cholesterol levels, increased BMI and hypertension.
In addition, researchers found a higher sleep disturbance score in adolescents with higher cholesterol level, higher BMI, larger waist size, higher blood pressure and increased risk of hypertension.
Higher sleep disturbance scores were also found in the adolescents who consumed more fried foods, soft drinks, sweets and caffeinated drinks, exercised less and spent more time in front of computer screens. Shorter sleep duration was also associated with higher BMI and waist size.
While more research is needed, the findings of the study add to compelling evidence that poor sleep in young people can lead to a host of negative health side effects, including a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Dr. Brian McCrindle, senior author and cardiologist at SickKids, recommends that parents do what they can now to help improve the sleep habits of children early in life, such as monitor their caffeine intake and bedtimes, and make sure their bedrooms do not have too much media, especially late at night.
Read the full report, “Poor sleep in adolescents may increase risk of heart disease.”
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