Sleep deprived teens make unhealthy food choices—study

Next time you succumb to eating unhealthy food, don’t blame your stomach. It is perhaps lack of sleep that is prompting you to do so!

According to a new study, teenagers who are well rested tend to make more healthy food choices than those who are sleep deprived.

As per the American Academy of Pediatrics, adolescents need between nine and 10 hours of sleep per night for optimal functioning.

Lead researcher, Lauren Hale, PhD, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine stated, “Not only do sleepy teens on average eat more food that’s bad for them, they also eat less food that is good for them.

She added, “While we already know that sleep duration is associated with a range of health consequences, this study speaks to some of the mechanisms, i.e., nutrition and decision making, through which health outcomes are affected.”

Link between sleep deprivation and poor dietary choices examined
In a bid to assess the link between sleep deprivation and poor dietary choices, the researchers conducted a study. They analyzed the data of 13,284 teenagers which was collected in 1996 for the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The study subjects had an mean age of 16 years.

For the purpose of the trial, the teens were split into three categories. These included “short sleepers”, who clocked less than seven hours of shut eye per night. The second group comprised the “mid-range sleepers”, who got seven to eight hours per night; and lastly “recommended sleepers”, were teens who received more than eight hours per night.

Outcome of the study
The analysis revealed that teenagers on short sleep ( less than 7 hours at night) were more inclined to consume fast food at least two or three times a week. In addition, they were less likely to opt for healthy food choices such as fruits and vegetables.

The finding persisted even after taking into account factors like age, gender, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, physical activity and family structure.

First author of the study, Allison Kruger, MPH, a community health worker at Stony Brook University Hospital stated, “We are interested in the association between sleep duration and food choices in teenagers because adolescence is a critical developmental period between childhood and adulthood. Teenagers have a fair amount of control over their food and sleep, and the habits they form in adolescence can strongly impact their habits as adults.”

The findings were presented at SLEEP 2013, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.