Teenagers consume more carbs and sugar when lacking sleep, say US researchers

January 18, 2022
Teenagers consume more carbs and sugar when lacking sleep

Teens who sleep less have poor dietary habits that could contribute to weight gain and other cardiometabolic diseases. According to new research from Brigham Young University (BYU) conducted at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, insufficient sleep caused teens to consume more sugary foods – up to 12 extra grams of sugar each day – that were likely to spike blood sugar to keep them functioning and alert.

“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,” said Dr. Kara Duraccio, BYU clinical and developmental psychology professor.

“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,” said Dr. Duraccio. “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 BYU research analysed the sleeping and eating patterns of 93 teenagers during two sleep conditions: spending six and a half hours each night in bed for one week (short sleep) and spending nine and a half hours each night in bed for another week (healthy sleep). Researchers measured the caloric intake, macronutrient content, food types, and the glycemic load of foods eaten by teens.

Besides carbs and refined sugars, teens getting short sleep were also found to consume less fruits and vegetables across the entire day, compared to healthy sleep.

Dr. Duraccio admits that it is difficult for teenagers to maintain a healthy sleeping schedule; teens are busy with rigorous academic schedules and a slew of extracurricular activities. Compound this with early start times for school and the result is short and ill-timed sleeping patterns that become a habit.

“We know that paediatric 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 Dr. Duraccio. “If we are really trying to discover strategies or interventions to increase optimal weight in teens, getting enough and well-timed sleep should be at the forefront of our efforts.”

Read: Research finds intense exercise right before bedtime detrimental to sleeping

Tags: ,

Category: Education, Features

Comments are closed.