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Less sleep as a teen can lead to higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis

Those who slept for long periods had no link to a higher risk of MS, experts said.

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people, bedtime and rest concept - teenage girl sleeping at home at night
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By Alice Clifford via SWNS

Getting less than seven hours of sleep as a teenager can lead to a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis, scientists warned.

Insufficient and disturbed sleep during teenage years could heighten the chance of being diagnosed with MS by as much as 50 percent, a new study revealed.

Clocking up enough hours of good quality sleep - defined as more than seven hours - while young may help ward off the condition, researchers found.

A new study found teens who got too little sleep had a 40 percent higher risk of developing MS, after accounting for a range of other potential factors such as smoking and weight.

Those who slept for long periods had no link to a higher risk of MS, experts said.

And those who suffered from poor quality of sleep during adolescence were 50 percent more likely to develop the condition, the study found.

Social media and working night shifts were blamed for adolescents not having a proper night's sleep.

MS affects the brain and spinal cord, causing multiple symptoms. These can include problems with vision, arm or leg movement, and balance.

While MS can be caused by genetics, there are environmental factors that could lead to the condition.

These include a lack of sunlight and vitamin D, smoking, teenage obesity and viral infections such as glandular fever.

Shift work has also been linked to a heightened risk of the condition, particularly at a young age.

The average age someone was diagnosed with MS was 34, experts said.


Dr. Torbjörn Åkerstedt, from the department of clinical neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the author of the study, said: “Associations have also been demonstrated between social media use and sleep patterns.

“Availability of technology and internet access at any time contributes to insufficient sleep among adolescents and represents an important public health issue.”

Researchers used a population-based case-control study, the Epidemiological Investigation of Multiple Sclerosis (EIMS), made up of 16 to 70-year-old Swedish residents.

Patients with MS were recruited from hospitals and privately run neurology clinics.

They were then matched with two healthy people who shared their age, sex and residential area from the national population register between 2005 and 2013 and 2015 and 2018.

The team focused particularly on people’s sleep patterns between the ages of 15 and 19.

Dr. Åkerstedt added: “Educational interventions addressed to adolescents and their parents regarding the negative health consequences of insufficient sleep are of importance.

“Insufficient sleep and low sleep quality during adolescence seem to increase the risk of subsequently developing MS.

“Sufficient restorative sleep, needed for adequate immune functioning, may thus be another preventive factor against MS.”

Researchers studied 2,075 people with MS and just over 3,000 without in this age group.

Each participant was asked about their sleep patterns at different ages and on different days. From work and school days to free days and weekends.

Short sleep was defined as less than seven hours per night, while adequate sleep was categorized as seven to nine hours.

A long period of sleep clocked in at ten or more hours, scientists said.

The participants were also asked to assess their sleep quality at different ages using a five-point scale, where five meant very good.

They found that people who had the worst sleep in both length and quality while growing up were more at risk of an MS diagnosis.

Researchers suggested this could be because poor sleep quality can affect immune pathways and inflammatory signalling, as the body clock is involved in regulating the immune response.

However, researchers stressed that poor sleep could be the consequence of neurological damage rather than the other way around.

Insufficient or disturbed sleep is common among teens and could be due to physiological, psychological and social changes during this time in their lives.

The rise of social media also could be influencing teenagers' sleeping habits, researchers said.

The study was published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

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