A new study suggests that poor sleep habits among teenagers could be responsible for increased consumption of sugar.
“Shortened sleep increases the risk for teens to eat more carbs and added sugars and drink more sugar-sweetened beverages than when they are getting a healthy amount of sleep,” says Kara Duraccio, a BYU clinical and developmental psychology professor and lead author of the study, in a university release.
The new research adds to the growing body of evidence that poor sleep habits can have disastrous effects on wellbeing. Here at Herculean Strength, we’ve reported on a number of studies linking poor sleep to low testosterone and to poor weight management.
New sleep study: teenagers who sleep less eat more sugar
Sleep is essential to living a healthy life. Teenagers, in particular, are at a critical age for brain development, making sleep even more necessary, but reports indicate about 73% of high-school teenagers are not getting the recommended eight to ten hours of sleep a night.
The researchers studied the sleep and eating patterns of 93 teenagers.
For one week, the teenagers slept for six and a half hours. The next week, every teen slept for nine or nine-and-a-half hours each night.
During this two-week period, the researchers tracked the type of foods the participants ate, along with their nutrient content and calories.
The researchers found that teenagers ate more foods that were high in carbohydrates or sugar and sweetened beverages when they were sleeping less. Teenagers who did not sleep enough also ate fewer fruits and vegetables than when they got the recommended hours of sleep.
“What’s interesting is that getting less sleep didn’t cause teens to eat more than their peers getting healthy sleep; both groups consumed roughly the same amounts of calories of food. But getting less sleep caused teens to eat more junk,” Dr. Duraccio explains.
“We suspect that tired teens are looking for quick bursts of energy to keep them going until they can go to bed, so they’re seeking out foods that are high in carbs and added sugars.”
The early bird catches the worm… and also weighs less
A study from 2011 shows that the early bird really does get the worm, if by “gets the worm” you mean “stays in shape”. By contrast, people who go to bed later, so-called “night owls”, put on weight more easily.
The researchers, from Northwestern University, knowing that sleep duration had already been linked to obesity, set out to investigate whether early birds or night owls put on weight more easily.
The researchers took 52 people aged between 18 and 71 and followed their daily sleeping rhythm for seven days. The researchers also got their subjects to note down what, how much and when they ate.
A little more than half of the participants fell into the ‘early bird’ category, going to bed on average at 0.30 AM and waking again at 8.10 AM, getting six and a half hours of kip per 24 hours.
A little under half of the participants, by contrast, were ‘night owls’, not getting to bed until 3.45 a.m. and waking up at 10.45 a.m. The average night owl therefore got about five and a half hours of kip every 24 hours.
Being night owls seemed to affect this group’s food intake, not just the amount of calories but also the quality of the food they ate.
Click here to read about this fascinating study on sleep
The results show that teenagers who had less than eight hours of sleep ate 12 extra grams of sugar each day. The researchers predict that a teen with poor sleeping patterns, eating 12 grams more sugar each day, would eat 4.5 extra pounds of sugar every year.
“If we are really trying to discover preventative strategies or interventions to increase optimal weight in teens, getting enough and well-timed sleep should be at the forefront of our efforts,” Dr. Duraccio concludes.
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