For many people, waking up slightly later in the morning may be a luxury. As it turns out, doing so may be a simple lifestyle intervention with far-reaching benefits. A recent study by researchers at the King’s College London (KCL) in the United Kingdom investigated the impact of extended sleep duration on nutrient intake. The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in January 2018, showed that sleeping longer every night could lead to reduced consumption of sugary foods and overall healthier eating patterns.
The researchers investigated the feasibility of extending sleep hours in a group of 21 adult participants aged between 18 and 64 years who were habitually sleeping less than the adult-recommended minimum of seven hours. These participants undertook a 45-minute sleep consultation which sought to extend their sleep time by up to 1.5 hours per night. Another 21 participants serving as the control group did not receive any sleep interventions. Participants in the sleep extension group were given a minimum of four appropriate and personalized sleep hygiene behaviors and a suggested bedtime.
The researchers undertook a simultaneous pilot investigation to evaluate the impact of sleep extension on nutrient intake. Compared to baseline levels, extending sleep patterns was found to result in a 10-gram reduction in reported intake of free sugars. Data reported by the sleep extension group also indicated trends for reduced intake of total carbohydrates. Lead author Wendy Hall, a senior lecturer in the Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences division at KCL, said that “a simple change in lifestyle may really help people to consume healthier diets.”
Importance of sleep duration/quality and eating habits in adolescents
Past research involving a nationally representative sample of 13,284 American adolescents (mean age: 16 years) showed that well-rested teens had a tendency to make healthier food choices than their sleep-deprived peers. Teens with less than seven hours of sleep per night showed a higher likelihood of consuming junk food twice or more per week and a lower likelihood of eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Even after adjusting for factors like age, gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic position, physical activity and family structure, shorter sleep durations independently impacted both healthy and unhealthy food habits.
Another past study analyzed the association between sleep and eating behaviors among adolescents aged 5-12 years. The results showed that short sleep durations and poor sleep continuity were connected with higher levels of eating behaviors which were associated with increased food intake. The study concluded that sleep loss was possibly associated with reduced self-regulation of appetite in children, causing an increased risk of overeating and obesity.
Additional eating-related cognitive behavior like eating self-efficacy and food preoccupation were particularly relevant to children/adolescents who were obese or overweight since these cognitions were linked to weight gain and eating disorders. Sleep deprivation also led to low moods and a lower ability to regulate negative emotions. These conditions can contribute to less-healthy eating habits, higher preoccupation with food, and lower eating self-efficacy.
Eating disorders in teens
Eating disorders (EDs) are complex mental illnesses which can impact people across all age groups. The onset of many EDs takes place during adolescence. The most common EDs are anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge eating disorder (BED). Although the exact causes of EDs are unknown, they appear to emanate from a combination of biological, sociocultural and psychological factors.
Past research on a nationally representative sample of 10,123 adolescents aged 13-18 years showed that EDs were frequently linked to functional impairment and suicidal behavior. The study identified five eating disorder diagnoses – AN, BN, BED, sub-threshold AN (SAN) and sub-threshold BED (SBED) – with lifetime prevalence rates of 0.3, 0.9, 1.6, 0.8 and 2.5 percent respectively. Insomnia appeared to be a common feature in AN.
Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego understands that more and more American teens are falling prey to eating disorders. We use evidence-based treatment programs to overcome eating disorders in teens. It is imperative that parents and guardians regularly monitor their adolescents’ eating habits and be cautious of any adverse changes. If your teen is showing symptoms of eating disorders, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know more about our teen eating disorder treatment centers.