Asthma and allergies are common conditions that affect many children as they grow up.
Parents often struggle, visiting one hospital after another in search of medical solutions, especially if their children suffer repeatedly from the conditions.
Treatment and appropriate medication play a key role in managing both ailments as well as preventing severe symptoms associated with them.
However, health experts note that parents can do much more at home to reduce the risk of their children suffering from, or having severe symptoms linked to asthma and allergies.
Key among them is sleep which many people tend to take for granted, yet it plays a significant role in the overall health status of human beings.
A new study published in the ERJ Open Research Journal by the European Respiratory Society, indicates that teenagers who go to bed late in the night and choose to wake up later in the morning are more likely to suffer from asthma and allergies.
As such, health experts note that the new study reinforces the importance of sleep timing for teenagers, as well as the need for more research looking at the impact of sleep on the respiratory health of children.
The recommended duration of sleep for teenagers is between eight and 10 hours. The earlier they sleep and wake up, the greater the health outcomes.
"Asthma and allergic diseases are common in children and adolescents across the world, and the cases are increasing. We know some of the reasons for this increase, such as exposure to pollution and tobacco smoke, but we still need to find out more,” states Subhabrata Moitra, the lead author of the study from the division of pulmonary medicine at the University of Alberta, Canada.
He notes: "Sleep and the sleep hormone melatonin are known to influence asthma. So, we wanted to see if adolescents' preference for staying up late or going to bed early could be involved in their asthma risk."
The novel research was conducted at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain. It involved 1,684 adolescents living in West Bengal, India - aged 13 or 14 years.
Each study participant was asked a series of questions about symptoms of asthma (such as wheezing) or allergic reactions (such as runny nose or sneezing) that they often experienced.
Afterwards, the researchers compared the above symptoms with the teenagers sleep preferences.
They also took into account other factors that are known to affect asthma and allergies, such as where people live and whether their family members smoke.
The results of the study showed that the chance of having asthma is around three times higher among teenagers who preferred to sleep later, compared to those who chose to go to bed earlier.
In addition, the findings of the research revealed that the risk of suffering from allergic reactions was twice as high in late-sleepers compared to the early ones.
"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,” says Dr Moitra.
"We also know that children and young people are increasingly exposed to light from mobile phones, tablets and other devices. They also stay up later at night. It could be that encouraging teenagers to put down their devices and get to bed a little earlier would help decrease the risk of asthma and allergies. That's something that we need to study more."
Professor Thierry Troosters, the President of the European Respiratory Society notes: "This is the first study to examine the possible role of different sleep preferences in teenagers' risk of asthma and allergies. It opens up an interesting and important new line of research. We already know that sleeping well is important for physical and mental health, so we should continue to encourage teenagers to get a good night's sleep."
Asthma is a condition that makes people’s airways to become narrow and swell.
It may also lead to the production of extra mucus. This can cause breathing difficulties, trigger coughing and lead to a whistling sound (wheezing) when those affected are breathing.
Allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts to foreign substance (allergens) such as pollen and bee venoms, -as well as some types of food.
When people have allergies, their immune system usually makes antibodies that identify particular allergens as harmful, even though they are not. This leads to a myriad of symptoms including: clogged up sinuses, skin inflammation, breathing difficulties and stomach problems.
The two conditions are related, since allergic reactions are major contributors to asthma attacks.