Canada’s foremost heart organization Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF) has issued a warning to the nation’s adolescents – your lifestyle threatens you with premature heart disease and stroke. HSF researcher Dr. Brian McCrindle cites poor sleep hygiene as the main risk factor.
“Sleep disorders in kids are on the increase. They are marching hand in hand with other increasing cardiovascular risk factors such as overweight and obesity, lack of physical activity, a poor diet, and high levels of unhealthy cholesterol.”
According Dr. McCrindle, disordered sleep in terms of duration, quality, and pattern is associated with increased body mass index (BMI), with subsequent increased risk for obesity and cholesterol levels. These findings are based on a survey of more than 1600 Canadian 9th graders aged 14 to 16. 22% of the young respondents admitted to having bad sleep patterns. 14% admitted they had problems staying awake at daytime 1 to 2 times a week and 5% even admits to having the similar episodes more than 3 times a week. The problems seem to be serious enough to induce 17% of these children to take sleep medications which may be prescription or over-the-counter.
Aside from the survey, the study participants also underwent evaluations for blood pressure, total blood cholesterol, and waist circumference measurement. Data analysis showed that poor sleeping habits are associated higher levels of blood pressure, BMI and other poor health conditions.
So what causes sleep disorders in these children? Studies have showed a link between poor sleep hygiene and physical inactivity and poor eating habits. Dr. McCrindle explains:
“It is a perfect example of harmful synergy at work. It’s like the chicken and egg conundrum: lack of physical activity and poor food choices negatively affect quality of sleep – and on the other hand, lack of sleep can lead to being too tired to exercise and not taking the time to eat properly.”
Health experts are constantly warning adults about the perils of an unhealthy lifestyle. However, findings of recent studies that lifestyle change interventions should already start at childhood. HSF believes that by educating children on health and health risks, these problems may be prevented in adulthood. HSF spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson appeals to parents and schools to help. Here’s how:
- School: “One of the best ways to ensure kids get their 90 minutes of daily physical activity is a school environment which supports and promotes physical activity.”
- Parents: Parents should serve as role models. Their lifestyle reflects on their children’s lifestyle.
Unfortunately, this problem is not unique to Canadian youths but is widespread in most developed countries. Thus, the warning should not only be to young Canadians but to all of us!