Teenagers who choose to stay up late and wake later on in the morning are most likely to experience asthma and allergic reactions compared to those who sleep and wake earlier, according to a research study released in ERJ Open Research.
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Asthma symptoms are understood to be strongly connected to the body’s biological rhythm, but this is the first research study to look at how private sleep preferences affect asthma risk in teens.
Researchers state the research study reinforces the importance of sleep timing for teens and opens up a new channel of research in to how sleep affects teens’ breathing health.
The study was led by Dr Subhabrata Moitra from the department of pulmonary medicine at the University of Alberta, Canada, who carried out the research while at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, Spain. He said: “Asthma and allergic diseases are common in children and adolescents across the world and the prevalence is increasing. We know some of the reasons for this increase, such as exposure to pollution and tobacco smoke, but we still need to find out more.
“Sleep and the ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin are known to influence asthma, so we wanted to see if adolescents’ preference for staying up late or going to bed early could be involved in their asthma risk.”
The study involved 1,684 teenagers living in West Bengal, India, aged 13 or 14 years, who were taking part in the Frequency and Risk Elements of Asthma and Allergy-Related Diseases amongst Teenagers research study.
Each individual was asked about any wheezing, asthma, or signs of hay fever, such as a runny nose and sneezing. They were asked a series of questions to judge whether they were ‘night types’, ‘early morning types’ or in between, such as what time of the evening or night they tend to feel worn out, when they would choose to get up, and how worn out they feel first thing in the morning.
Scientist compared the teenagers’ signs with their sleep choices, taking into account other factors that are known to affects asthma and allergies, such as where the individuals live and whether their family members smoke.
They discovered that the possibility of having asthma was around 3 times greater in teens who choose to sleep later compared to those who chose to sleep earlier. They also discovered the danger of suffering allergic rhinitis was twice as high in late-sleepers compared to early-sleepers.
Dr Moitra adds: “Our results suggest there’s a link between preferred sleep time, and asthma and allergies in teenagers. We can’t be certain that staying up late is causing asthma, but we know that the sleep hormone melatonin is often out of sync in late-sleepers and that could, in turn, be influencing teenagers allergic response.
“We also know that children and young people are increasingly exposed to the light from mobile phone, tablets, and other devices, and staying up later at night. It could be that encouraging teenagers to put down their devices and get to bed a little earlier would help decrease the risk of asthma and allergies. That’s something that we need to study more.”
A 2nd phase of the PERFORMANCE study is scheduled in 2028-29, which suggests it will be possible to repeat the study with a new group of teenagers to see if there has actually been any change in teenagers sleeping practices and their respiratory health. Dr Moitra and his team likewise want to quantify their findings by taking unbiased measurements of individuals’ lung function and sleep time.
Teacher Thierry Troosters is President of the European Breathing Society and was not involved in the research study. He said: “We need to know much more about why asthma and allergies are rising in children and teenager and, hopefully, find ways to reduce these conditions.
“This is the first study to examine the possible role of different sleep preferences in teenagers’ risk of asthma and allergies, and it opens up an interesting and important new line of research. We already know that sleeping well is important for physical and mental health, so we should continue to encourage teenagers to get a good night’s sleep.”