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Teens who stay up late have more asthma and allergy issues

In a new study published by the European Lung Foundation, experts have found that teenagers who stay up late are more prone to allergy and asthma issues than those who go to bed earlier.

Previous research established a strong link between asthma and the body’s circadian rhythm, with symptoms worsening in the early morning hours. The current study is the first to examine sleep patterns and asthma risk among teens.

According to the researchers, the study reinforces the importance of sleep timing for teenagers and opens up a new channel of research into how sleep affects respiratory health.

“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,” explained study lead author Dr. Subhabrata Moitra, who conducted the research at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health.

“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 investigation was focused on data from the Prevalence and Risk Factors of Asthma and Allergy-Related Diseases among Adolescents (PERFORMANCE) study, involving 1,684 adolescents living in West Bengal, India.

The participants reported on any wheezing, asthma, or allergy symptoms – such as a runny nose and sneezing. 

The teens were asked questions regarding what time of the evening or night they feel tired, when they choose to wake up, and how tired they feel first thing in the morning. This information was used to classify the teens as being evening types, morning types, or somewhere in between.

When the researchers compared the teenagers’ medical symptoms with their sleep preferences, they found that asthma was around three times more prevalent among teens who preferred to fall asleep later at night. The study also revealed that the risk of allergic rhinitis was twice as high in adolescents who went to bed and woke up later.

“Our results suggest there’s a link between preferred sleep time, and asthma and allergies in teenagers,” said Dr. Moitra. “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.”

Professor Thierry Troosters,  president of the European Respiratory Society, commented on the research. 

“We need to know much more about why asthma and allergies are rising in children and teenagers and, hopefully, find ways to reduce these conditions,” said Dr. Troosters.

“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.”

The study is published in the journal ERJ Open Research.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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