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Sleep variation in teenagers may be linked to their calorie intake

Posted:  Thursday, March 12, 2015

It is during their teens that people mostly err on their eating and sleeping habits. When American researchers conducted a study to identify the link between eating and sleeping, they found that not just the duration of sleep but also day-to-day variations in the number of hours of sleep might affect eating habits of teenagers.

The study, presented at the American Heart Association EPI/Lifestyle 2015 meeting, is the first study that objectively measured the sleeping pattern, physical activity and eating habits of teenagers in a free-living environment for over a week. The researchers used data from the Penn State Child Cohort follow-up study that involved 342 teenagers with an average age of 17 years.

The teens wore an actigraph bracelet that mapped their cycles of activity and duration of sleep over seven days. They also answered a food frequency questionnaire to estimate the amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates regularly consumed in the previous year. The researchers analysed the relationships between sleep duration, day-to-day sleep variations and food intake. The results were adjusted for age, sex, race, and body mass index.

They found that on an average, the teens slept for 7 hours each night and slept more on weekends than on weekdays. The study also found that an increase or decrease in the sleep duration by an hour was associated with:

• eating 201 more calories per day

• consuming about 6 grams more total fat and 32 grams more carbohydrates daily

• 60% higher chance of nighttime snacking on school nights, and

• 100% higher chance of night-time munching on weekends

The researchers postulated that relationship between sleep variation and food intake could be either because of sleep deprivation on one day linked to sedentary behaviour the following day or hormonal imbalance causing the teens to eat more.

According to lead author of the study, it's not how long you sleep that matters. It's about day-to-day variations in how long you sleep."

The researchers further added that thus"It may be more important to have a regular sleep pattern than to sleep longer one day and shorter on another. These findings could help us better understand how obesity develops among young people,"

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends 9 to 10 hours of sleep per night for teenagers. Thus, it would be a good idea not to cut down on snoozing to ensure good eating habits.

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