Getting less than seven hours sleep in your teens can lead to a higher MS risk, scientists warn


Getting less than seven hours sleep as a teenager can increase the chances of developing multiple sclerosis, according to a new study.

Insufficient and disturbed sleep during adolescence can heighten the chance of being diagnosed with the condition by as much as 50 per cent, scientists have said.

But the study, run by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, found that having more than seven hours sleep can help ward off the condition.

Experts said that social media and working night shifts are some of the reasons behind adolescents not getting a proper night’s sleep.

Multiple sclerosis is a lifelong condition that affects the brain and the spinal cord and involves problems with vision, arm or leg movement, and balance.

It is incurable but medicines and treatments can help ease the symptoms.

Though it is believed multiple sclerosis is due to genetics, there are other environmental factors which cause it - like the lack of sunlight and Vitamin D, smoking, teenage obesity, and glandular fever.

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

The average age for the diagnosis is 34, though the initial symptoms can be seen in the early 20s.

Dr Torbjörn Åkerstedt, author of the study from the department of clinical neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, 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 from the Epidemiological Investigation of Multiple Sclerosis studied patients from hospitals and privately run neurology clinics. They used a population-based case-control study with Swedish residents aged between 16 and 70 years old.

Scientists then matched the residents with two healthy people who shared the same age, sex, and residential area from the national population between 2005 and 2013 and 2015 and 2018 respectively.

The study was conducted to assess the sleep patterns of people aged between 15 to 19, while they also included 2,075 people with MS and just over 3,000 without any age group.

The participants were asked to monitor their sleep patterns at different ages and on different days – be it from work to school days or weekends. They had to use a five-point scale where five meant very good.

According to scientists, short sleep could last less than seven hours, though an adequate good quality slumber is recommended between seven to nine hours, and long periods could clock in more than ten hours of sleep.

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

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.”

The study, published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, found that poor quality sleep is more common among teens potentially due to physiological, psychological, and social changes in their lives.