Disordered sleep among adolescents compromised normal pubertal development

The relationship between sleep and circadian signals’ effect on hormone secretion has been established. New data suggest that disturbances in slow-wave sleep, or deep sleep, in adolescent patients have the potential to affect normal pubertal development.

According to researchers, the effect of sleep on gonadotropin-releasing hormone secretion during puberty was explored by studying luteinizing hormone pulses as it relates to stages of non-rapid eye movement (N1; N2; and N3/slow-wave sleep [SWS]).

“If the parts of the brain that activate the reproductive system depend on deep sleep, then we need to be concerned that inadequate or disturbed sleep in children and young adolescents may interfere with normal pubertal maturation,” researcher Natalie D. Shaw, MD, of the reproductive endocrine unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, said in a press release. “This is particularly true for children who have been diagnosed with sleep disorders, but may also have more widespread implications as recent studies have found that most adolescents get less sleep than they require.”

Five pubertal boys (aged 11.8 to 15.6 years) with a testicular volume between 4 mL and 15 mL and four premenarcheal girls (aged 9.9 to 12.8 years) with Tanner stage II to stage III breasts were included in the study. All patients were administered iron supplements (30 mg ferrous gluconate/kg daily) for the study and for 1 month after the study to prevent anemia, researchers wrote. The patients also underwent one-to-two overnight studies with polysomnography and blood sampling for luteinizing hormone at 10-minute intervals.

According to data, when polysomnography records and luteinizing hormone pulses were aligned, the researchers found that luteinizing hormone pulses (n=58) occurred most frequently during SWS (1.1 pulse per hour; n=30) compared with other sleep stages or periods of wake after sleep onset (P<.001). Additionally, the amount of SWS increased significantly in the 15 minutes preceding and 5 minutes after each pulse vs. SWS observed throughout the study night (P<.01), researchers wrote.

Researchers said these findings confirm that SWS, compared with sleep in general, is related to a nocturnal increase of luteinizing hormone secretion during puberty, thus raising concerns of disordered or restricted sleep in the adolescent population.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.