The following is excerpted from an online article posted by EurekAlert!
Staying awake later into the night and sleeping in on the weekends are hallmarks of adolescent behavior, however, erratic sleep patterns may have consequences for future heart health by increasing blood pressure among teens who have more abdominal fat, according to new research published in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal.
The researchers evaluated sleep, visceral fat, and blood pressure in 303 adolescents from central Pennsylvania (average age 16.2 years) who returned for a repeat evaluation after participating as children in the Penn State Child Cohort study. Sleep was measured during one night in the sleep lab and at home over seven days by wearing a wristwatch-like sleep monitoring device. With this device, researchers tracked sleep duration and its variability (to capture how much and how little adolescents slept night-to-night), sleep midpoint (the midpoint between sleep and wake-up time), and its regularity (to capture their sleep patterns over time). A sleep midpoint at 2 a.m. or later is considered delayed for a typical adolescent during the school week, and night-to-night differences of 45 minutes or more in the sleep midpoint was considered highly irregular.
Overall, the participants had sleep habits typical of adolescents – going to bed later than they did during grade school and sleeping later on weekends and school breaks than on school days.
Among the adolescents studied during the school year and whose sleep varied by 45 minutes or more during the school week, each unit increase in visceral abdominal fat was linked to a 7 mm Hg higher systolic (top number) blood pressure and a 3 mm Hg higher diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure.
In contrast, among teens whose sleep varied less than 45 minutes during the school week, there was no link between visceral abdominal fat and elevated blood pressure.
In teens who described themselves as “evening people,” each unit increase in visceral abdominal fat was linked to about a 3 mm Hg higher diastolic blood pressure; however, among self-described “morning people,” there was no impact of visceral abdominal fat on blood pressure.
“These results suggest that keeping a regular sleep pattern may protect adolescents from the cardiovascular consequences of obesity,” said Natasha Morales-Ghinaglia, B.S., first author of the study and an American Heart Association predoctoral fellow at the Penn State College of Medicine Sleep Research & Treatment Center in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania.