November 1, 2022
By Dwight Akerman, OD, MBA, FAAO, FBCLA, FIACLE
Many children and adolescents have developed unhealthy lifestyles, which affect their visual and overall health. These risk factors developed before COVID-19, but the pandemic exacerbated these trends.
Peer-reviewed research has identified an inverse relationship between sleep duration and juvenile-onset myopia, i.e., less than optimal sleep results in a greater prevalence of myopia. Consider the following data points:
- Odds of myopia were 41% less in subjects with more than nine hours of sleep compared with those with less than five hours of sleep after adjusting for sex, age, education levels, and economic status (Jee et al., 2016).
- Children with more than seven hours of sleep have 3.37 times more risk for myopia than those with more than nine hours of sleep (Gong et al., 2014).
- Myopic children demonstrate more night-to-night variability in sleep duration than non-myopic children (Ostrin et al., 2021).
How much sleep should we recommend to children and adolescents? The U.S. National Sleep Foundation advises the following sleep guidelines:
- Preschoolers (ages 3-5): 10-13 hours per night
- School-age children (ages 6-13): 9-11 hours per night
- Teenagers (ages 14-17): 8-10 hours per night
Other lifestyle risk factors that can influence juvenile-onset myopia include:
- Poorly balanced diet with high caloric intake, including excessive carbohydrates and less than optimal daily portions of fruits and vegetables
- Excessive consumption of soda, energy drinks, and other sugar-laden beverages and not enough water consumption
- Excessive screen time
- Sedentary lifestyle with inadequate physical exercise and outdoor playtime
Sedentary behavior and poor diet often lead to obesity. Many children and adolescents sit motionless in front of digital devices most of the day with just their fingers and eyes moving. This sedentary behavior is unquestionably myopigenic.
Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States, putting children and adolescents at risk for a lifetime of poor health. According to the CDC, about one in five children and adolescents are considered obese. Obesity-related chronic health conditions include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems such as asthma and sleep apnea, and joint problems.
Eye care professionals must take a holistic view of every patient, especially children and adolescents, and make appropriate lifestyle recommendations to ensure optimal general and visual health.
Best professional regards,
Dwight H. Akerman, OD, MBA, FAAO, FBCLA, FIACLE
Chief Medical Editor