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Inadequate Sleep can Lead to Obesity in Teens

Aug 22, 2014 09:41 AM EDT

Teenagers who get fewer hours of sleep each day hare at a higher risk of developing obesity by the time they are 21 years old, a new study shows.

According to researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Public Health, fewer hours of shuteye can lead to obesity in teenagers.

They say that risk of obesity was 20 percent higher in 21-year-olds who got less than six hours of sleep during their adolescence.

Their study was based on data from 10,000 American teens and young adults enrolled in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

Around a fifth of the 16-year olds in the study reported that they slept for less than six hours a night. The team found that these teens were 20 percent more likely to be obese by the age of 21 years. The researchers even accounted for other factors that might have affected the results such as lack of exercise or poor eating habits.

"Lack of sleep in your teenage years can stack the deck against you for obesity later in life," said Shakira F. Suglia, ScD, assistant professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School, in a news release. "Once you're an obese adult, it is much harder to lose weight and keep it off. And the longer you are obese, the greater your risk for health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer."

"The message for parents is to make sure their teenagers get more than eight hours a night," added Suglia in a news release. "A good night's sleep does more than help them stay alert in school. It helps them grow into healthy adults."

The study is published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

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