Adolescents who did not get enough sleep had higher body fat and blood pressure, according to a new study.
While previous research has found links between sleep and body mass index (BMI), the authors sought to determine whether sleep is associated with other cardiometabolic measures.
In a cross-sectional study, 829 adolescents with a median age of 13 years wore monitors that measured their sleep and physical activity.
The children’s median sleep duration was 7.35 hours a night. Only 2.2% met the National Sleep Foundation recommendations for at least eight hours of sleep a night for teens ages 14-17 years and nine hours for 11- to 13-year-olds. After falling asleep, adolescents spent about 84% of the time asleep before getting up for good, known as their sleep efficiency.
Researchers found more sleep and better sleep were linked with less body fat. They also were tied to lower metabolic risk scores measured by smaller waist circumference, lower systolic blood pressure and higher high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, according to the study “Objective Sleep Characteristics and Cardiometabolic Health in Young Adolescents” (Cespedes Feliciano EM, et al. Pediatrics. June 15, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-4085).
The study was not designed to prove a causal relationship between sleep and health. Previous research, though limited in children, suggests not getting enough quality sleep is associated with choosing unhealthy food, watching more TV, exercising less and changes to levels of hormones that influence feelings of hunger.
In this study, many associations between sleep and cardiometabolic health remained after controlling for BMI and obesity-related behaviors like TV watching and fast-food consumption. Authors noted abnormalities in the autonomic nervous system and hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis may play a role in the sleep-health connection. They urged pediatricians to treat adolescent sleep seriously.
“Optimizing children’s health should include strategies used to address child and adolescent sleep, including duration and efficiency, and to screen for sleep problems and disorders,” authors wrote.
The Academy recommends optimizing sleep by following a routine; keeping bedrooms dark, cool and free of loud noise; turning off screens at least an hour before bedtime; and getting enough exercise during the day.