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Sleepy Teenagers More Likely to Make Unhealthy Food Choices

Submitted by on June 26, 2013 – 2:38 PM

sleep-deprived1Researchers from universities across the US, including Utah State University, University of Colorado at Denver, and University of Wisconsin-Madison contributed to a new study which suggests that teenagers who get a good night’s sleep are less likely to resort to unhealthy nutrition than their sleep-deprived peers.


“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. 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.” says Lauren Hale, associate professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University, USA.


The study examined the link between sleep duration and nutritional choices in a national representative sample of 13,284 teenagers in the second wave of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The data were collected in 1996 when the interview subjects had a mean age of 16 years. It was presented at SLEEP 2013, the annual meeting of the Associate Professional Sleep Societies. The results took into account factors such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, physical activity and family structure, and found that short sleep duration has an independent effect on both healthy and unhealthy food choices.


18 percent of respondents – Teens who reported less than seven hours of sleep per night—were more likely to consume fast food two or more times per week and less likely to eat healthy food like fruits and vegetables. The respondents were arranged into one of three categories: short sleepers, who slept for less than seven hours per night; mid-range sleepers, who received seven to eight hours of sleep per night; and recommended sleepers, who slept longer than eight hours per night. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that adolescents get between nine and 10 hours of sleep per night.


“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.” says Allison Kruger, a community health worker and the study’s first author.


Conclusively the study elicits that by addressing sleep deficiency, obesity prevention and health promotion interventions can be improved in novel, effective ways. One of the next steps will be to explore whether the association between sleep duration and food choices is causal, Hale added.



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