New research indicates high rates of sleep problems among youth continuing through teenage years and into early adulthood. The study also suggests that although the sleeping issues come from a variety of issues, many can be controlled with early training on maintaining an active lifestyle.
In the study, investigators from James Cook University and the University of Queensland tracked more than 3600 people from the age of 14 until they were 21. Reports of sleep problems were significant as “just over a quarter of the 14-year-olds reported sleep problems, with more than 40 percent of those still having sleep problems at 21,” said lead investigator, Dr. Yaqoot Fatima from JCU’s Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health.
She said the causes of sleep problems were different at different ages.
“For all people studied, being female, having experienced early puberty, and being a smoker were the most significant predictors of sleep problems at 21 years.”
She said adolescent depression or anxiety were linking factors for sleep problems between the two ages.
“It’s a vicious circle. Depression and anxiety are well-established risk factors for sleep problems and people with sleep problems are often anxious or depressed,” she said.
Dr. Fatima said that as well as the traditional factors, excessive use of electronic media is emerging as another significant risk.
“In children and adolescents, it’s found to be strongly associated with later bedtime and shorter sleep duration, increasing the risk of developing sleep disturbances,” she said.
Dr. Fatima said the study was worrying as it revealed a high incidence of persistent sleep problems and possible concurrent health problems among young people — but it also strongly suggested an answer to the problem.
“Even allowing for Body Mass Index and other lifestyle factors, we found that an active lifestyle can decrease future incidence and progression of sleep problems in young subjects.
So, early exercise intervention with adolescents might provide a good opportunity to prevent their sleep problems persisting into later life.”
Fatima believes future research should investigate the factors that appear to extend a young adults’ sleep problems into adulthood, and how these may be prevented.
Source: James Cook University