When teenagers don’t get adequate amounts of sleep, their health suffers in much the same way sleep deprivation affects adult health. One health risk sleepy teens face is higher blood pressure (hypertension), a medical condition that can lead to serious health consequences during adulthood. Hypertension is becoming more common in both adults and adolescents.

Susan Redline, MD, MPH, led a study of how teenagers’ sleep habits affect their blood pressure. Her study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, has been published in the current issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. Redline is director of University Hospitals Sleep Center at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, where she is also a professor of medicine and pediatrics.

Redline enlisted 115 girls and 123 boys between the ages of 13 and 16, all healthy with no history of sleep disorders, who agreed to have their sleep patterns monitored at home for five to seven days each and each teen underwent sleep quality analysis conducted in a sleep laboratory. Blood pressure readings were taken at regular intervals throughout the sleep study.

All adolescents need nine hours of sleep but the Redline research revealed many teens are just not getting this much sleep on a regular basis. Some of the teams’ findings reveal:

– 26% of the study participants experienced low sleep efficiency;
– 11% slept less than 6.5 hours, an amount of sleep classified as extremely short duration;
– 14% had hypertension or pre-hypertension, measured as being in the 90th percentile for an individual’s age, gender, and height;
– Almost two-thirds of the teens experiencing short sleep duration were also prone to low sleep efficiency;
– 27.9% experiencing low sleep efficiency were also measured as getting sleep of short duration.
– When low sleep efficiency was present, systolic blood pressure readings were an average of 4 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) higher than study participants who rated higher for sleep efficiency.

Low sleep efficiency means a person has problems falling asleep or he or she wakes up too early in the mornings. This condition is thought to be more frequently associated with high blood pressure in adolescents than sleep duration.

Teens with poor quality sleep, measured at 85% or less, were found to be at increased risk of hypertension by as much as 3.5 times compared to teens who enjoy higher quality sleep. When less than 6.5 hours of sleep are gotten, the risk of hypertension jumps by 2.5 times.

The research team suggests today’s technology is invading the bedroom in ways that distract from quality sleep. Cell phones, computers, and music are thought to keep teens busy into the night, in spite of early morning school hours. The research team urges parents to remove technological equipment from bedrooms and to keep them dark, quiet, and therefore more conducive to good quality sleep instead.

Poor children and minorities, or the vulnerable population for study purposes, were found to be at higher risk of poor sleep quality and of hypertension, perhaps because of home environments and neighborhoods that are disruptive enough to hinder sleep.

Redline suggests pediatricians begin to include sleep evaluations in their routine care of children with hypertension and to include a child’s sleep patterns and quality when treating all children.

Source: American Heart Association