Poor sleep and sleep habits in adolescence may raise health risks
Sleep disturbances in adolescence may lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and being overweight later in life.
October 1st, 2012
12:20 PM ET

Poor sleep and sleep habits in adolescence may raise health risks

Lack of quality sleep for adults may negatively impact heart health. Evidence now suggests that sleep problems during adolescence may increase health risks as well.

The research appeared Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"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.

The researchers examined data from the 2009/2010 school year for adolescents in the Niagara region of Ontario.

More than 4,000 ninth-grade students completed questionnaires asking about their sleep duration, quality, disturbances, snoring, daytime sleepiness and the use of any sleep medications during a period of one month.  Their average age was 14.6.

The students also answered questions about their physical activity, time spent in front of a computer or television and nutrition.

Researchers studied participants' height, weight, waist circumference, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. They adjusted for those with family history of cardiovascular disease, so they could be confident of the association found.

Participants slept, on average, 7.9 hours during the week and 9.4 hours on weekends. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adolescents get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night.

Almost one in five reported their weeknight sleep as "fairly bad" or "bad." One in 10 said the same was true for their weekend sleep. In addition, almost 6% of respondents said they had used medications to help them sleep.

"What happens with these kids is they have very poor sleep habits and sleep hygiene, so they're sleepy and tired and have poor energy during the day, so they hop themselves up on caffeinated beverages and then that just perpetuates their problem and a lot of them wound up taking some kind of sleep medication," McCrindle said. "So they get in a cycle."

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.

Common sleep disturbances reported by the adolescents included waking up during the night or early in the morning, not being able to fall asleep within a half-hour, feeling too hot or too cold, having to use the restroom and bad dreams.

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.

"It can affect (your) learning, it can affect (your) memory," Narang added.

Parents concerned about their child's sleep can intervene in several ways.

McCrindle suggests trying to minimize media use in the bedroom.

"Do (the adolescents) really need to have a TV, a computer, all their video games in the bedroom?" he asked.

Instead, ensure kids have down time before bedtime.

Narang feels consumption of high-energy caffeine drinks may largely be to blame.

But the big picture, she says?

"Everybody involved in the health care of a child - a nurse, a physician, a teacher - needs to promote well sleep, and that would involve a certain number of hours a sleep and routine of sleep," Narang said.

The routine would keep them on the same sleep schedule all week long, she added.

soundoff (290 Responses)
  1. zandhcats

    Teens need a lot of sleep because they are growing, meanwhile I know many of them stay late for browsing in the internet.

    October 1, 2012 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. BearsChristian

    Children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD have problems with sleep. Hopefully they took that into consideration.

    October 1, 2012 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. James

    This world we live in is way to stressful, I mean, the job quality, the foods available based on income and price, and sleep habits from age five to sixty, are just begging us to be unhealthy, humans were never meant to do any of the stuff we do today, we are in no way designed for it.

    October 1, 2012 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. WD

    Part of the problem is that most teenagers are biologically wired to stay awake until 2 AM and sleep until noon. Yet they're expected to get up at 6 AM to get on a bus for school.

    October 1, 2012 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • George

      Spoken like a lazy teenager.

      October 2, 2012 at 09:42 | Report abuse |
    • DnB

      Couldnt agree more, a lot of teens and young adults do not do well with early hours, especially after being up for hours studying or doing homework. We know that, as we age, our sleep patterns change. Sure, some kids are natural morning people. Adults and elderly are old enough that their sleep patterns have changed to an earlier schedule. Look at the sleep patterns and schedules of the elderly, its all about age.
      A round peg can fit into a square hole with enough force, doesnt mean its a good thing.

      October 2, 2012 at 22:31 | Report abuse |
    • kelvin


      The first parts are actually true it's called the circadian clock

      October 4, 2012 at 23:51 | Report abuse |
  5. cpc65

    Part of the teen sleep problem comes from the growing epidemic of texting addiction. My 17 year-old nephew has anxiety fits if he can't text every 10 minutes or so. If his dad takes away his mobile device it's like he will die.

    October 1, 2012 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Portland tony

    We are all descended from individuals who slept very little and probably with "one eye" open. In prehistoric times till quite rcently, to sleep too deeply and for long periods would give our natural predators and enemies more time to dispatch us. Plus the more time awake meant better meals if you were hunting or gathering eons ago!

    October 1, 2012 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. The Pope

    Drugs will fix that. Or electric cattle prods.

    October 1, 2012 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Alisia

    This article reminds me of learning about sleep in psychology class in high school. We learned that teenagers are significantly deprived of sleep and it effects them in many different ways. Specifically, the part of the body that ends up suffering the most is the brain. During the adolescent and teen years the brain is in one of the most crucial stages of development that it will experience in one lifetime. Aside from the first few years of life, the brain is developing the most it ever will in such a short period of time. Thus, the body and mind need sleep. Teenagers do not just sleep because they're lazy, their minds physically need it. As a teenager, I can speak from experience when saying, I am constantly tired. I wake up around seven, go to school, sports, and when my homework is finally done I often do not go to sleep until 1 or 2 in the morning - giving me only about 5 or 6 hours of sleep per week day.

    October 1, 2012 at 21:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. JohnC

    caffeine wrecks sleep

    We need to be more aware that caffeine causes/exacerbates anxiety and other mental health condition.

    Just read the 170+ pages of comments of people trying to get off caffeine here; http://coffeefaq.com/site/node/11
    And the research referenced here; http://caffeineevaluation.blogspot.co.uk/

    Many people feel they cannot 'get going' in the morning without caffeine; in reality they are just experiencing withdrawal from not having ingested any over the previous hours.

    A key point is the research showing anxiety sufferers can be very sensitive to caffeine; some people think 'it can't be the caffeine, I only have 1 cup a day', but for them that could be the key issue in their anxiety.

    Withdrawal is not easy (especially first 2 weeks, when anxiety actually goes up), but is possible.

    How about cutting all caffeine for 30 days and seeing how you feel? Like this lady here is doing; http://stopcaffeine.blogspot.co.uk/

    October 2, 2012 at 03:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Awakened

    Getting off caffeine was the best thing I've done for my health and sleep. While one ONE cup a day I was having some anxiety and even palpitations (still 1 cup of coffee, but very strong – late from Starbucks). It was hard to quit: the first 48 hours of withdrawal gave me migrant-type headaches, but it got better and now I dint crave it at all.

    October 2, 2012 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
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  12. MM

    what happens to your body (long term) when you sleep at around 2 AM and wake up at noon?

    October 14, 2012 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Calin Coroban

    Insomnia can be short-term or long-term. It is important to understand particular ways to prevent one from being affected by this sleeping disorder. Maintaining a consistent sleeping schedule, such as waking up and sleeping at the same time, is crucial. Also, one should avoid caffeinated drinks during the 8 hours before sleeping time. Although exercise is essential and can aid the process of sleeping, it is important to not exercise right before bedtime, therefore creating a calm environment. Lastly, one's bed should only be for bed and possibly sexual intercourse.These are some of points included in sleep hygiene.

    October 16, 2012 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply

    Yo yo yo ayeee ee yo mama is so phat like teens in de dark like ayee yo yo my ne gus in paris yo mama

    October 18, 2012 at 08:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mr. Cheney

    Are you doing this research paper for Ms. Keating's class? Well Join my class for a wah experience of fun history. You will learn about Sumer and how they took a crap in their pants in Circa 500 AD. It is crazy like a scan in the pants.

    October 18, 2012 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Storm Hornbeck

    It wasn't me! Toga! Toga! Toga! Yo Isaiha your as black as Willie Dong's mole.

    October 18, 2012 at 08:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Jesus Christ of Nazereth

    I will stop the sleep deprived teens! I will teach them a lesson. My only solution is to massacre all of the aliens at Mars and it will fix all the stupid stuff like smoking pot which is so uncool. Eveyone is like wow. But Believe in me or you will end up in HECK with Bernie Mac/

    October 18, 2012 at 08:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Jesus of Mexica

    I will stop the sleep deprived teens! I will teach them a lesson. My only solution is to massacre all of the aliens at Mars and it will fix all the stupid stuff like smoking pot which is so uncool. Eveyone is like wow. But Believe in me or you will end up in HECK with Bernie Mac.

    October 18, 2012 at 08:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. sammy t.

    Teenagers in my school sleep in my class. Quite frustrating they disrupt their own education.

    October 21, 2012 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Lance

    To solve this problem is to sleep early

    October 22, 2012 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. mikebudd2012

    I have a double interest in this article:
    – First, because I have 3 children thereof 2 teens and I could tell you about this increased "screen time" and reduced sleep hours. Of course as parents we have our responsibility here, but believe me, it's hard to say no all the time when "most of their friends do it", "have such or such video game", "watch TV until.." etc etc... My feeling is that they do more things now, are more connected (internet, smartphones, social networks etc..), they tend to behave in an "adult way" sooner compared to my generation, they have less physical activity and they sleep less, no doubt. Not very healthy but hard to correct...
    – My second point of interest here is caffeine: based on personal research I am convinced that coffee is great in moderation, the list of positive effects in many conditions (type 2 diabetes, cancers, neurodegeneration etc..) is impressive: http://ephedrinewheretobuy.com/ephedrine-where-to-buy-eca-stacks/coffee-a-true-wonder-drug – but for adults only, not for children! I don't like the fact that young people increase their caffeine consumption (coffee, energy drinks etc). At this age, the risks exceed the benefits, not even mentioning the high risk when young people add alcohol to caffeine: they get the hyperactivity from an energy drink with caffeine plus the disinhibition from the alcohol.
    Cheers, Mike

    November 18, 2012 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. mikebudd2012

    Also I confescated phones, video games etc. for this week to see if they'd go to sleep earlier.

    November 18, 2012 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Gabrielle

    I am doing a project for my health class where i need to find a blog about a question that we are researching, and i was wondering If you knew anything about how taking naps on a regular basis can affect a teens regular sleep cycle. Please repond asp, Thanks.

    December 1, 2012 at 05:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve C

      Napping is a good way for people to make up for lost sleep, but if you sleep at a time too late in the day, it can have an affect on your sleep cycle. Napping is good for relaxation, and it has good psychological benefits too.
      This website may help you, its where i got the informaton from above from:

      December 5, 2012 at 14:03 | Report abuse |
    • Gabrielle


      December 9, 2012 at 17:02 | Report abuse |
  24. sammy

    Hi im a student doing a research project on sleep health. I was wondering if you have any further information or website about how eating or drinking certain things before bed may affect your sleeping patterns? or anything related to this topic. Please respond asap! Thank You!

    December 9, 2012 at 23:47 | Report abuse | Reply
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