Sleep-deprived teens consume more carbs, sugar: study

TORONTO — A new study has found that teens who don’t get enough sleep may end up consuming more junk food.

Researchers in the U.S. published their findings in the journal Sleep last month. They analyzed the sleeping and eating patterns of 93 teenagers for five days.

In one group of teens, the participants slept for around 6.5 hours. In the other group, the participants got 9.5 hours of sleep. The researchers measured the nutritional and caloric intake of all the participants as well as the types of foods they consumed.

They found that the teens who got less sleep ate more foods that were high in sugar and carbs while consuming fewer servings of fruits and vegetables.

“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,” Brigham Young University professor and lead author Kara Duraccio said in a news release.

These differences in eating habits mainly emerged after 9 p.m. Researchers believe this is mainly due to teens reaching for snacks or soft drinks late in the evening.

“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,” Duraccio said.

The teens who had shorter sleep ended up consuming an extra 12 grams of sugar each day. In an entire school year, researchers say that translates to approximately 4.5 pounds or two kilograms of extra sugar.

“We know that pediatric obesity is an epidemic, and we’ve focused on a lot of interventions to try and address it, but sleep is not one of the things that researchers tend to focus on,” said Duraccio.

Health Canada recommends eight to 10 hours of sleep a night for teens and nine to 11 hours for children 13 and under. The agency says one in four Canadian children aren’t getting enough shut-eye. Meanwhile in the U.S., the American Academy of Pediatrics says that 73 per cent of U.S. high schoolers aren’t getting the recommended hours of sleep.

“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,” said Duraccio.

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