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Bad Night's Sleep May Raise Blood Pressure in Kids

Study from China followed normal-weight teens, and found a slight increase in pressure

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"The study separates the effect of sleep apnea from sleep loss, and conclusively shows that sleep loss in the absence of sleep apnea raises both systolic and diastolic blood pressure," said Dr. Sanjeev Kothare, a pediatric sleep expert at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.

"Pediatricians must screen for diabetes, and [high blood pressure] in teenagers with sleep loss besides screening for snoring and sleep apnea in obese teenagers," Kothare said.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, children aged 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep. Teens need about 9.25 hours of sleep each night to function best, but for some, 8.5 hours is enough.

"Being healthy is not only getting regular exercise and eating right, but also trying to get the appropriate amount of sleep," said Dr. Rubin Cooper, chief of pediatric cardiology at Cohen Children's Medical Center, in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

To encourage better sleep, "start a bedtime routine that helps your children wind down before bed and limit texting or social media at night," Cooper said. "Keep a similar schedule on weekdays and weekends." Other sleep hygiene tips include avoiding caffeine before bedtime.

These measures may be even more important among kids who are overweight and obese. "If you have kids who are staying up late and getting up early on top of obesity and sleep apnea, it is the perfect storm," Cooper said. But exactly how big of a difference better sleep would make in this scenario is unknown, he noted.

Although the study found an association between kids getting less sleep and a slight increase in blood pressure, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

The bottom line is that "sleep isn't optional for adolescents," said Dr. Metee Comkornruecha, an adolescent medicine specialist at Miami Children's Hospital.

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