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Poor sleep link to heart disease in obese teens

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed
69x75 heart disease blood test

6th March 2014 – Obese teenagers are at greater risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke if they get insufficient sleep, a small study suggests.

Researchers in the US say sleep assessments for obese adolescents could identify those at risk of a range of cardiometabolic disease.

A team from the University of Michigan Health System and Baylor University assessed 37 obese adolescents aged 11 to 17 for fasting cholesterol and blood sugar, waist size, body mass index ( BMI) and blood pressure. They were then scored for their cardiometabolic risk.


The adolescents were fitted with monitors to measure their physical activity and sleep patterns. These recorded that:

  • One third of the teenagers were physically active for at least an hour each day
  • Most participants slept approximately 7 hours each night, usually waking up at least once
  • Only 5 of the 37 managed to get the minimum recommended 8.5 hours of sleep each night.

The researchers concluded that even after controlling for other factors, like BMI and physical activity, low levels of sleep remained a significant predictor of cardiometabolic risk in obese teens.

Sleep testing

The authors of the study, which is published in The Journal of Pediatrics, say sleep assessments may be a useful screening tool to identify at-risk adolescents.

However, they were unable to prove that lack of sleep causes cardiometabolic disease or if obesity, or other factors, cause sleep disturbances. They conclude: "Future research should explore the mechanism of the relationship between sleep and cardiometabolic health in obese adolescents.

Commenting on the study in an emailed statement, Christopher Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, says: "This small study shows that a good night’s sleep may influence risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

"However, this research looked at a small group of obese teenagers. To draw firm conclusions, we need much larger studies on a whole range of participants."

He adds: "A balanced diet and plenty of physical activity will help teenagers maintain a healthy weight and sleep well at night. If you are having trouble controlling your weight or if sleepless nights are becoming a problem, talk to your GP."

Reviewed on March 06, 2014

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