Teenage Lack of Sleep May Contribute to Obesity

LaToya S. is concerned about her son’s sleeping patterns, as are many parents of teenagers. When her 13-year-old had no means to communicate with friends in the early stages of the pandemic, she relaxed some of her usual restrictions on screen use. It didn’t take long before her son’s bedtime started to move further and later, he started staying up late playing video games with pals, and he stopped getting good nightly sleep. LaToya is still trying to get him back to his regular sleeping habits two years later.

Her efforts are warranted for good reason. Bad sleeping patterns and poor health are closely related. It may result in poorer grades, higher incidence of mood problems, a greater risk of substance usage, and other things for teenagers.

We started noticing the impact of his disturbed sleep patterns when he returned to school after lockdowns, claims LaToya. “After the first several hours, the professors noticed that he started dozing off in class. He started to fall behind, especially in the harder classes. We understood that we needed to alter.

For parents like LaToya, who already have concerns about their children’s academic performance, a recent study has added yet another one: Lack of sleep among teenagers is associated with obesity and being overweight.

The Backing Information

The relationship between sleep duration and health was examined in more than 1,200 adolescents, evenly split between boys and girls, for the study, which was written by Jesus Martinez Gomez, a researcher-in-training at the Cardiovascular Health and Imaging Laboratory at the Spanish National Centre for Cardiovascular Research. Sleep was first assessed by researchers at the age of 12, and then again at 14 and 16 years old. The participants in the study wore activity trackers on each occasion for 7 days.

Throughout the trial, the researchers assessed body mass index (BMI) in addition to sleep measures. The odds of heart disease and other illnesses were also scored, with values ranging from negative (healthier) to positive (unhealthier) values. Additionally, researchers measured and monitored blood pressure, blood glucose, and waist size.

For optimum health, youths between the ages of 13 and 18 should typically sleep between 8 and 10 hours every night, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. However, the Spanish study discovered that by the age of 12, just 34% of study participants got the necessary 8 hours of sleep each night. At the age of 14, this percentage declined to 23%, and at the age of 16, it plummeted to 19%.At age 12, 21% of children went into the overweight and obese category; at age 14, the percentage jumped to 24%; and at age 16, when sleep quality was at its lowest, the percentage increased to 27%.

The head of the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Sleep Center, Laura Sterni, MD, is not shocked by these results. She claims that “we are failing to ensure that our teenagers receive enough sleep.” “There are many contributing elements, and the negative effect is significant.”

The relationship between sleep deprivation and obesity hasn’t quite been established, but it’s plausible.

Parents should nevertheless take the connection into consideration, according to Bruce Bassi, MD, medical director and creator of TelepsychHealth, an online treatment programme. “Right now, it’s correlation, not causation,” he says. “All of the negative consequences of sleep deprivation are the exact reverse of what you want. Lack of sleep activates the toddler parts of our brains, making us crankier and more in need of comfort—which is occasionally food.

According to Sterni, the evidence linking lack of sleep to obesity is growing all the time. “Obesity risk variables seem to be dosage responsive.”

Indeed, as the Spanish study emphasises, teens are more likely to gain weight or become obese the less sleep they get.

According to Sterni, “We know that poor sleep results in changes in critical hormone control and metabolic markers.” In the other direction, it causes our hunger to increase. It affects the chemicals that make us feel full by reducing them.

According to Sterni, lack of sleep also affects how a body metabolises glucose, causes insulin resistance, and makes the body more receptive to ingesting unhealthy carbohydrates.

Additionally, she adds, staying up late gives you more opportunities to eat, possibly mindlessly munching on unhealthy items while watching TV. You’re not as motivated to workout because you’re sleepy during the day. The picture is braided with lifestyle variables.

Teenagers today are notoriously busy, which discourages consistent, regular bedtime routines. Bedtimes and wake-up times may be pushed later and earlier by social events, athletic commitments, and club and academic obligations. All told, a lack of sleep can predispose teenagers to a lifetime of health problems, many of which are brought on by unhealthful weight.

Ways to Support Your Teen

Although the statistics can be depressing, there are significant ways parents can support their teenagers in adopting better sleeping habits.

The good news is that, according to some studies, if you educate families and children about the value of sleep, they will pay attention and work to maintain healthy sleep habits, adds Sterni.It’s just as crucial as brushing your teeth, therefore you should always strive for obtaining enough of it.

Bassi claims that encouraging early bedtimes is one of the most sensible places to start.

Focus instead on when they go to bed because, for the majority of teenagers, the end marker of sleep is fixed due to school, he advises. Encourage better bedtime routines and lessening of stimuli.

That entails establishing healthy screen-time routines, which is a significant component of the strategy used by Greg F. and his spouse. Parents of two teenagers, ages 15 and 17, they established strict guidelines for their electronics.

Greg continues, “They are only allowed to use their phones in the common parts of the house, and they have to turn them off at 8:45 at night. They are prohibited from using their phones in the morning until all of their errands and breakfast are finished. We think it’s better for them to get some rest both before and after using their phones.

Exercising during the day can enhance the likelihood that an adolescent will be ready for bed at a regular hour in the evening. Greg’s family has also said that both of their children participate in sports.

“Parents can also display their own positive practises,” says Bassi. “By shutting off your personal screens at night, you positively reinforce your rules.”

Greg is following that suggestion.

We go to bed early and read a book before going to sleep, he says, adding that neither of us has a television in our beds.

Another subject worth exploring is napping. Teenagers like to snooze when they can, as many parents of teenagers are aware.

Sterni declares, “I’m not against napping. To avoid having your teen snooze too close to bedtime, he advises “limiting naps to 45 to an hour.”

While there are many areas of improvement to be made with teens’ sleeping patterns, Sterni advises beginning with one or two rather than tackling them all at once.

You won’t complete them all immediately, she warns. Just strive to complete the task in 8 hours on average, whatever you must do it.

LaToya is making progress, even though there is still much to be done to change her son’s sleeping patterns. The family has established a 10 p.m. bedtime, set shutdown hours for their router, and even given their son a traditional alarm clock to use in his room instead of the phone’s alarm. Some of the rules may be reviewed when habits develop.

We now understand that teens want rewards for good behaviour just as much as younger kids, she adds. We’re being patient with his improvement and our consistency is paying off.

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