To be at your best, it’s more important to sleep well than to sleep a lot. An inadequate night’s rest has a detrimental effect on the body’s ability to function, and it only takes three bad nights for your health to start to suffer. New research just recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that a short night’s rest leads to poor dietary choices, favoring high-carbohydrate, high-sugar, and high-fat products.
Nighttime snacking, a scourge
U.S. researchers at Ohio State University, who analyzed data from nearly 20,000 adults, found a link between having less than seven hours of sleep and a tendency to prefer junk food the next day. They found no difference in the types of foods consumed outside of meals between those who slept well and those who were sleep-deprived, but they did find that participants who slept less tended to eat more calories per day.
What stands out in this study is the bad habit that sleep-deprived people have of eating snacks at night. “At night, we drink our calories and eat a lot of processed foods, says Christopher Taylor, lead author of the study. Not only do we not sleep when we stay up late, but we also exhibit all the behaviors associated with obesity: lack of physical activity, more screen time, and poor food choices. This highlights the importance of following or not following sleep recommendations.”
Lack of sleep is linked to many health problems
It is recommended to have about seven hours of sleep per night to promote good health. Less sleep than recommended is associated with a higher risk of several health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Snacking times vary depending on sleep
In this study, researchers examined data of 19,650 U.S. adults aged 20 to 60 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007 to 2018. Here, information was collected on each participant’s daily diet, not only what but also when all foods were consumed. The survey also collected data on how much sleep each volunteer got. Three snacking times were set for analysis: 2:00 AM-11:59 AM., 12:00 PM-5:59 PM., and 6:00 PM-1:59 AM.
Statistical analysis showed that 95.5% of the subjects ate at least one snack per day and that more than 50% of calories from snacks in all participants came from two broad categories that included sodas, sweet juices, and energy drinks, as well as unhealthy foods such as chips, cookies, and pretzels. Those who did not get enough quality sleep were likely to have a morning snack and less likely to eat an afternoon one. They also consumed larger amounts of snacks with more calories and less nutritional value.
“The longer we stay awake, the more opportunities we have to eat and in the evening, those calories usually come from unhealthy snacks and sweets” Christopher Taylor concluded. Every time we make these choices, we add calories and things that are associated with an increased risk of chronic disease.