Sleep for a Healthy Heart

Heart disease risk increased for sleepless teens

October 9, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

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(dailyRx News) During adolescence, young people often develop habits they will carry with them throughout their lives. It’s important to recognize bad habits early and make changes to prevent poor health later in life.

A recent study found that poor sleep quality among adolescents is linked to increased risk for heart disease later.

"Improve sleep habits to reduce heart disease risk!"

Dr. Indra Narang, of University of Toronto’s Department of Respiratory Medicine and director of sleep medicine at The Hospital of Sick Children (SickKids), and colleagues aimed to find an association between adolescents’ sleep quality and duration and their risk for cardiovascular disease.

The study used the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index questionnaire to record sleep patterns and quality of 4104 adolescents involved in the Health Heart Schools’ Program. Researchers investigated the link between hours of sleep each night and sleep quality and heart disease risk factors, including body mass index (BMI), cholesterol and hypertension in teens.

On average, participants reported sleeping 7.9 hours on weeknights, less than the 9 hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Students reported sleeping more on the weekends, averaging 9.4 hours each night.

Nearly 20% of participants reported sleep disturbances during the week, and 10% reported poor sleep quality on the weekends.

Students who reported snacking on more sweets, fried foods, soft drinks and caffeinated beverages expressed higher sleep disturbance scores, reduced physical activity and increased screen time.

The higher sleep disturbance scores were also associated with higher cholesterol, higher BMI, larger waist size, higher blood pressure and increased risk of hypertension.

Shorter sleep duration was associated with higher BMI and waist size, but no association was made between average hours of sleep and cholesterol levels or blood pressure.

“This study clearly presents an association between sleep disturbance and heart disease risk,” said Dr. Kohler, MD, of the Florida Sleep Institute. “It can’t be said, however, that poor sleep quality definitely causes heart disease.”

Evidence indicates that inadequate sleep habits are closely linked to increased risk of heart disease, so parents should work with kids to practice healthy habits.

“Monitor caffeine intake, bedtimes and bedrooms overloaded with media," says co-author Dr. Brian McCrindle, a cardiologist at SickKids.

Sleep disturbance is prevalent in adolescents, so efforts to improve sleep habits early in life could help to prevent high cholesterol, increased BMI and hypertension later in life.

This study was published on October 1 in Canadian Medical Association Journal. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
October 9, 2012
Last Updated:
October 9, 2012