Why You Should Be Concerned About Sleep Deprivation in Teens

Adolescents often stay up late and miss out on sufficient sleep. But did you know that sleep deprivation in teens can promote inflammation and even raise the risk of cardiovascular disease?

sleep deprivation in teens

To prevent inflammation and to decrease the risk of conditions like cardiovascular disease, getting the recommended amount of sleep is a must for teens.

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Does your teen stay up late every night? While teens are predisposed to stay up late, most teens do not get the eight to nine recommended hours of sleep each night, which is essential for optimum health.[1] New research shows that sleep deprivation in teens is associated with inflammation; this might be why reduced sleep in adolescents is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Sleep and Cardiovascular Disease

Studies in adolescents show that sleep deprivation is associated with obesity, elevated blood pressure, and higher lipid profiles including LDL cholesterol (in females) and total cholesterol (in males).[2,3,4] Sleep loss may contribute to cardiovascular disease and these risk factors through multiple pathways, including increased sympathetic nervous system activity, impaired glucose tolerance, changes in appetite and energy expenditure, and increased inflammation.[5]

Inflammation and Sleep Deprivation in Teens

One way in which short sleep duration may cause cardiovascular disease risk is through chronic low-grade inflammation.[1] Sleep loss is associated with alterations in immune cell production and inflammatory markers.[6] One of these markers, called C-reactive Protein (CRP) is known to increase with sleep restriction in adults.[5] CRP is a common marker for inflammation, and high levels of it can predict many medical conditions.[7]

A recent study in the journal Sleep Medicine divided 244 adolescent students into either a high-risk CRP group if they had CRP levels in the blood above 3 mg/L, or a low-to-moderate risk CRP group if their CRP levels were below that threshold. They then measured sleep duration during the week and weekend in these students. They found that students with shorter sleep duration during weeknights were much more likely to be in the high-risk group. They also found that students were twice as likely to be in the high-risk group if they slept an average of two hours or more of “catch up” sleep on weekends.[1]

These results show that shortened sleep and sleep deprivation in teens can lead a dangerous condition of chronic inflammation. To prevent inflammation and to decrease the risk of conditions like cardiovascular disease, getting the recommended amount of sleep is a must for teens.

Getting Enough Sleep

A combination of social and biological factors actually can make it quite hard for teens to go to bed early, causing problems when school starts early in the morning. The American Academy of Pediatrics has even recommended that school start times be moved to at least 8:30 a.m. to help adolescents get a healthy amount of sleep.[8]

The best way to ensure sufficient sleep is to get into a routine, as a regular sleep schedule is the healthiest option. Try to follow it at least during the weeknights, and weekends, too, if possbile. Teens should get at least eight to nine hours of sleep every night of the week.

Eat dinner and start your evening routines earlier than usual to help shift your family’s schedule towards going to bed earlier. Avoiding computers, TV, and blue light before sleep will make it easier to fall asleep as well.

Share Your Experience

Do you have tips for battling sleep deprivation in teens? What strategies work for your family? Share your experience in the comments section below.

[1] Sleep Medicine. 2014 Oct:1-27.

[2] Am J Hypertens. 2014 Jul;27(7):948-55.

[3] Arch Argent Pediatr. 2014 Dec;112(6):511-518.

[4] Nutrition. 2013 Sep;29(9):1133-41.

[5] Ann Behav Med. 2013 Feb;45(1):121-31.

[6] Brain Behav Immun. 2007 Nov;21(8):1050-7.

[7] Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2012 Jun 1;4:2490-501.

[8] American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. 2014 Aug.

Originally published in 2014, this blog has been updated.

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UHN Staff

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