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Poor Sleep Boosts Heart Disease, Diabetes Risk in Overweight Teens

Update Date: Mar 06, 2014 09:07 PM EST

Sleep is especially important for obese adolescents, according to a new study.

Researchers found that obese and overweight teens who don't get enough sleep are significantly more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

While previous studies have found an increased risk of heart and metabolic disease in obese adults and obese young children, the association is not as clear in adolescents.

Researchers said the latest study is important because 30 percent of U.S. adolescents, an age group known for not getting enough sleep, are obese or overweight.

The study involved 37 obese adolescents between the ages of 11 and 17. Researchers determined participants' cardiometabolic risk score by measuring their fasting cholesterol and blood sugar, waist circumference, body mass index, and blood pressure.

Participants were also asked to wear a physical activity monitor 24 hours a day for seven days to measure their levels of physical activity and sleep.

Study results revealed that one-third of adolescent met the minimum recommendation of being physically active at least an hour a day. Most adolescents in the study slept approximately seven hours each night, usually waking up as least once. Only five of the participants met the minimal recommended eight and a half hours of sleep a night.

After accounting for factors that may impact cardiometabolic risk, like BMI and physical activity, researchers found that low levels of sleep was a significant predictor of cardiometabolic risk in obese teens.

In other words, obese or overweight who are already considered at risk of cardiometabolic disease are at an even greater risk of cardiometabolic disease if they don't get enough sleep.

While the study was unable to determine whether lack of sleep causes ardiometabolic disease or if obesity, or other factors cause sleep disturbances, lead researcher Heidi IglayReger, Ph.D., supervisor of the Physical Activity Laboratory at the Michigan Metabolomics and Obesity Center, concluded that "the strong association between sleep duration and cardiometabolic risk score independent of the effects of body composition and physical activity suggest a potential influence of sleep duration on cardiometabolic health in obese adolescents."

The findings are published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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