By Annika Shekdar ‘24
Many teenagers are night owls, meaning they sleep late at night and wake up late in the morning, but that is not necessarily an indicator of lack of sleep. However, a new study proposes that even with enough sleep, being a teenage night owl can predispose someone to asthma and allergies.
The study was carried out in the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, Spain by Dr. Subhabrata Moitra from the University of Alberta. It looked to link sleep preferences to asthma risk. 1,684 West Bengal adolescents aged 13-14 participated in the study. The participants were surveyed and asked about wheezing, asthma, or symptoms of allergic rhinitis, such as a runny nose and sneezing. Next, they were asked questions to determine whether they were morning birds or night owls, including what time of the evening or night they tend to feel tired, when they would choose to wake up, and how tired they feel first thing in the morning. The researchers compared the teenagers’ symptoms with their sleep preferences. They also took factors like where the participants live and whether their family members smoke into account, as factors like these can greatly affect asthma.
The researchers discovered that the chance of having asthma was three times higher and the risk of allergic rhinitis was two times higher in night owls than early birds. As stated by Dr. Moitra, “Our results suggest there’s a link between preferred sleep time, and asthma and allergies in teenagers. 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.” They plan on doing a future study in 2028-2029 with a new group of people. They will compare the new results with the old to check if any changes have occurred with the relationship between teenagers’ sleeping habits and their respiratory health.