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14 June 2011

Teens lose sleep over weight

Sleep duration has a significant association with feelings of external pressure to obtain or maintain a thin body among adolescent girls.

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Sleep duration has a significant association with feelings of external pressure to obtain or maintain a thin body among adolescent girls, suggests new research presented at Sleep 2011, the 25th Anniversary Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS) in the US.

Results show that pressures to have a thin body from girlfriends and from the media significantly predict sleep duration and account for 4.5% of the variance in hours of sleep for adolescent girls.

"There is a significant amount of research in other areas regarding pressure on adolescent females to minimise body weight, but this pressure, as it relates to sleep health, is a less-explored topic and its consequences are mostly unknown," said principal investigator Katherine Marczyk, a doctoral student in clinical health psychology and behavioural medicine at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, US.

"These results are important, as this discovery could be one of the first steps in this research."

The study

Marczyk and co-author Allison Wilkerson led the study, which is a secondary analysis from a larger study led by North Texas professor Trent Petrie, PhD. It involved 789 female middle-school students from a suburban school district in Texas. Their mean age was about 12 years.

Participants completed the Perceived Sociocultural Pressure Scale, which assesses how much pressure an individual has experienced to lose weight and have a thin body. The scale also evaluates the potential sources of this pressure, including peers, friends, family and the media. Sleep was assessed using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which is the most commonly used measure of sleep in epidemiological studies. A linear regression was used to assess the degree to which perceived sociocultural pressure predicts hours of sleep.

According to the authors, losing sleep could put adolescent girls at risk for other health problems. In particular, decreased sleep has been linked to increased anxiety and depression. - (EurekAlert!, June 2011)

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