A study published in the ERJ Open Research reveals that teenagers who tend to stay up all night, sleep in the early morning hours, and wake up later are more likely to develop asthma and allergies.
The researchers of the study believe that their findings have implications on the importance of sleep timing for adolescents. Moreover, it also opens up a new avenue of research on how sleep affects teenagers' respiratory health.
According to Dr. Subhabrata Moitra, the lead author from the University of Alberta's pulmonary medicine division, the prevalence of asthma, and allergic conditions among children and adolescents is increasing worldwide. Known causes for the rise in cases include exposure to pollution and tobacco smoke.
Furthermore, asthmatic systems have been long known to be linked to the body's internal clock. However, their study would be the first to look deeply into how individual sleep preferences directly affect teenagers' risk of asthma.
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Asthma and Puberty
According to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, adolescence is represented by accelerated hormonal, physical, and behavioral changes. Furthermore, these rapid changes may affect the natural course of asthma. It has been long believed that many children with asthma will outgrow the disease after the beginning of puberty.
The study involved 1,684 teenagers residing in West Bengal, India, aged 13 to 14 years old. They were also taking part in the Prevalence and Risk Factors of Asthma and Allergy-Related Diseases among Adolescents (PERFORMANCE) study.
Each participant was questioned about any wheezing, asthma, or symptoms of allergic rhinitis, like runny nose and sneezing. They were asked a list of questions to help determine whether they were "evening types," "morning types" or in between.
Furthermore, they were asked specific questions such as what time of the evening or night they tend to feel tired, what time they would choose to wake up, and how tired they feel upon waking up.
The authors of the study compared the teenagers' symptoms with their sleep preferences. They also took into account other factors that are known to affect asthma and allergies, like the location in which the participants reside, and whether anyone in the household smokes.
In their findings, they discovered that having asthma was around three times higher in adolescents who prefer to sleep later than those who slept earlier. Moreover, they also found the risk of suffering allergic rhinitis was twice as high in teenagers who slept late than early sleepers.
The Link Between Sleep, Asthma and Allergies
Dr. Moitra says that the study results suggest a link between the teen's preferred sleeping time, asthma, and allergies. Although it isn't certain that staying up late definitely causes asthma, he says that melatonin, the sleep hormone, often becomes out of sync in late-sleepers. He adds that the disruption in melatonin levels could be responsible for causing allergic responses in teenagers.
The researchers also add that exposure to the light from mobile phones, tablets, and other devices might have effects on children's and teenagers' sleep time. They suggest that encouraging them to put down their devices earlier would reduce the risk of asthma and allergies.
A second phase of the PERFORMANCE study is scheduled to take part in 2028-29. The team hopes to quantify their findings by taking objective measurements of the participants' sleep time and lung function.
According to Professor Thierry Troosters, the President of the European Respiratory Society, there needs to be more understanding of why asthma and allergies are rising in children and teenagers. He is hopeful that there would soon be ways to reduce these conditions.