“When most people think about cardiovascular risk factors and risk behaviors, they don’t necessarily think of sleep,” said Dr. Brian McCrindle, senior author and cardiologist at SickKids in Toronto, Ontario. “This study … shows a clear association between sleep disturbance (in adolescents) and a greater likelihood of having high cholesterol, high blood pressure and being overweight or obese.”
“These findings are important, given that sleep disturbance is highly prevalent in adolescence and that cardiovascular disease risk factors track from childhood into adulthood,” noted Dr. Indra Narang, the lead study author and director of sleep medicine at SickKids.
This study involved more than 4,000 ninth graders (mean age 14.6) and one remarkable result was that 6% use a sleep aid.
Narang said 6% was “quite a lot” of adolescents taking over-the-counter and prescription medication to help them sleep.
“It really shows that some adolescents are experiencing very disturbed sleep that they’re then needing sleep medication,” she said.
The increased risk of cardiovascular disease in adolescents who are having sleep disturbances has more to do with other lifestyle decisions rather than simply not getting enough sleep:
Those who reported sleep disturbances more often consumed soft drinks, fried food, sweets and caffeine, the research showed. They also reported less physical activity and increased screen time. In addition, the adolescents with shorter sleep routines reported less physical activity and more screen time.
In the short term, poor sleep impairs daytime function.
While the authors discuss strategies for helping sleep hygiene (no electronics in the bedroom, having a set routine for bedtime, no caffeinated beverages), it is also important that parents pay attention the other things our kids are doing and not doing, physically, nutritionally, and otherwise.
It’s also important to remember that some chronic medical conditions frequently lead to sleep disorders in teens, including poorly-controlled allergies and asthma, ADHD, anxiety and/or depression, and obstructive sleep apnea.
Information regarding sleep and sleep disturbances from the CDC here: