Sleepless Teens Gain Weight

Obesity linked to teenager sleep patterns

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The teenage years are the time of life where people need the most sleep. Sleeping less than eight hours per night makes teens tired, more prone to sickness, and have difficulty concentrating.

It could also make a person heavier!  A new study suggests sleepl patterns are linked to weight gain - particularly for teenage boys.

"Teens need to get plenty of sleep."

Lata Casturi, MA, of the Baylor College of Medicine Sleep Center led a study of 255 high school students - 108 males and 147 females. Each teen's height and weight was measured to calculate body mass index (BMI), and the teens were surveyed for both weekday and weekend quantity of sleep.

The average nightly sleep was about six and a half hours on weekdays, and nine hours and ten minutes on weekends for males; nine hours and twenty-two minutes for females.

The males who got seven hours or less of sleep on weekdays had an average BMI that was 3.8 percent higher than those who slept more than seven hours. Girls with less than seven hours of sleep had a BMI of 4.7 percent higher than those who received more than seven hours of sleep.

The researchers also found that a sleep duration of under eight hours was associated with obesity in male teens, with the fewest hours of weekday sleep associated with the highest BMI. This correlation was not found in the females.

According to the researchers, lack of sleep affects weight gain because it messes with the brain signals that control feelings of appetite and fullness.

"When you don't get enough sleep, it drives leptin levels down, which means you don't feel as satisfied after you eat. Lack of sleep also causes ghrelin levels to rise, which means your appetite is stimulated, so you want more food," said co-author Radha Rao, MD of DeBakey VA Medical Center.

"The two combined, can set the stage for overeating, which in turn may lead to weight gain."

Researchers believe the gender-related difference in sleep and weight gain may be related to the different body composition during puberty. Lack of sleep during the teenage years can cause stress, more frequent sickness and more struggles in the classroom and with other obligations.

It can also create poor sleep habits that continue into adulthood and can cause long-term health issues.

The findings were presented at the 77th annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, held October 22 - 26, 2011.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 27, 2011
Last Updated:
October 28, 2011