Lack of sleep linked to higher risk of acute illnesses in teens

Last Updated: Friday, November 15, 2013 - 14:20

Washington: A new study has found that acute illnesses , such as colds, flu , and gastroenteritis were more common among healthy adolescents who got less sleep at night.

The research led by Kathryn Orzech, Ph.D. of the Bradley Hospital Sleep Research Laboratory suggested that the regularity of teens' sleep schedules impacted their health.

Orzech and her team compared three outcomes between longer and shorter sleepers: number of illness bouts, illness duration, and school absences related to illness.

The team found that bouts of illness declined with longer sleep for both male and female high school students. Longer sleep was also generally protective against school absences that students attributed to illness. There were gender differences as well, with males reporting fewer illness bouts than females, even with similar sleep durations.

Orzech's team analyzed total sleep time in teens for six-day windows both before and after a reported illness and found a trend in the data toward shorter sleep before illness vs. wellness.

It was also found that more irregular sleep timing across weeknights and weekends (very little sleep during the week and "catching up" on sleep during the weekend), and a preference for scheduling work and social time later in the evening hours can both contribute to differences in illness outcomes, conclusions that are also supported in the broader adolescent sleep literature.

"We showed that there are short-term outcomes, like more acute illness among shorter- sleeping adolescents, that don't require waiting months, years or decades to show up," Orzech said.

The study is published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

First Published: Friday, November 15, 2013 - 14:20
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