Less Sleep Could Increase Sugar Cravings In Teens, Study Says

Teenagers need an adequate amount of sleep throughout their formative years. Unfortunately, most of them do not get sufficient sleep. 73% of high school kids receive fewer than the recommended eight to ten hours of sleep every night, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

It may seem like skipping a few hours of sleep each night would help you accomplish more each day, but it comes at a great cost to the body and mind – particularly for teenagers.

Sleep is necessary for children and adolescents to maintain their health throughout growth spurts, concentrate in school, and collaborate well with classmates. Even a few hours of sleep deprivation may negatively affect mental health and academic performance.

According to new research from Brigham Young University, sleep deprivation may also lead to an increase in sugar intake among adolescents, which may contribute to juvenile obesity, diabetes, and other cardiometabolic health disorders.

Less Sleep Means More Sugar

In a news release, lead author Kara Duraccio of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center said less sleep increases the likelihood of adolescents consuming more carbohydrates and sugary drinks compared to those who receive adequate sleep. Duraccio is a clinical and developmental psychology professor at BYU.

The researchers conducted a two-week study of 93 students across 30 states. In the first week, pupils slept six and a half hours every night and nine and a half hours in the second week. During this period, researchers also noted the sorts of foods eaten, including their caloric, macronutrient, and glycemic load composition.

In addition to an increase in sugar consumption, the data found that adolescents who slept fewer hours consumed fewer fruits and vegetables than their classmates. The researchers also observed that adolescents consumed the same number of calories regardless of their sleep duration. According to Duraccio, the exhausted adolescents sought immediate energy boosts by consuming meals with greater sugar content.

Researchers discovered that, on average, adolescents who slept the least ingested an additional 12 grams of sugar each day. When multiplied by 180 school days, high school students might ingest an additional 4.5 pounds of sugar annually.

Several factors contribute to adolescents not obtaining sufficient sleep. In addition to their early morning lessons, students have extracurricular activities, homework, and jobs. Additionally, they benefit from time spent with friends and family. This may be difficult for a teenager to handle, and their sleep patterns typically suffer as a result.

Prior research has shown a relationship between lack of sleep and an increased risk of mental illness, poor academic performance, and behavioral issues. However, according to a recent study from BYU done at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, inadequate sleep significantly increases the risk of weight gain and other cardiometabolic illnesses among adolescents due to worse food habits.

Dr. Kara Duraccio, professor of clinical and developmental psychology at BYU and primary author of the research, said, “Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood that adolescents would consume more carbohydrates, added sugars, and sugar-sweetened drinks than when they obtain enough sleep.”

Less Sleep Could Increase Sugar Cravings in Teens, Study Says

This study, recently published in the medical journal SLEEP, examined patterns of eating and sleeping in 93 teenagers during short sleep and long sleep, which is also healthy sleep. Researchers determined the caloric intake, macronutrient composition, food categories, and glycemic load of the meals consumed by adolescents.

Compared to when they were sleeping well, adolescents with short sleep consumed more meals likely to cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, such as foods rich in carbohydrates and added sugar and sugary beverages. These modifications happened mostly in the late evening (after 9:00 pm). Teens who slept poorly consumed less fruits and vegetables throughout the day than those who slept well.

“Fascinatingly, adolescents who slept less did not consume more calories than their classmates who slept well; both groups ingested nearly the same number of calories. However, less sleep prompted adolescents to consume more junk food, “explained Duraccio. “We assume that fatigued teenagers are seeking rapid energy boosts to keep them going till bedtime, so they seek out items heavy in carbohydrates and added sugars.”

The study indicated that adolescents with inadequate sleep ingested an additional 12 grams of sugar daily. Since most adolescents do not get enough sleep over 180 school nights, an extra 12 grams of added sugar per day might amount to almost 4.5 pounds each year.

“We know that childhood obesity is a pandemic, and we’ve concentrated on a variety of strategies to combat it, but sleep is not often a priority for researchers,” said Duraccio.

Teenagers’ hectic scholastic and extracurricular schedules make it difficult for them to maintain a good sleep pattern, according to Duraccio. This, coupled with early school start times, results in the development of short, irregular sleeping cycles.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health of the United States.

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