A recent study finds link between sleep loss, nighttime snacking, junk food cravings and obesity
Nighttime snacking and a craving for junk food may contribute to unhealthy eating behaviors and represent a link between poor sleep and obesity, according to a recent study from Tucson-based University of Arizona Health Sciences.
The study was conducted via a nationwide phone survey of 3,105 adults from 23 U.S. metropolitan areas. Participants were asked if they regularly consumed a nighttime snack and whether lack of sleep led them to crave junk food. They also were asked about their sleep quality and existing health problems.
About 60% of participants reported regular nighttime snacking and two-thirds said lack of sleep led them to crave more junk food.
Researchers found that junk food cravings doubled the likelihood of nighttime snacking, which can lead to an increased risk for diabetes. They also concluded poor sleep quality seemed to be a major predictor of junk food cravings, and that junk food cravings were associated with a greater likelihood of participants reporting obesity, diabetes and other health problems.
“Laboratory studies suggest that sleep deprivation can lead to junk food cravings at night, which leads to increased unhealthy snacking at night, which then leads to weight gain. This study provides important information about the process, that these laboratory findings may actually translate to the real world,” says Michael Grandner, assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the Sleep and Health Research Program and the UA Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic. “This connection between poor sleep, junk food cravings and unhealthy nighttime snacking may represent an important way that sleep helps regulate metabolism.”
Christopher Sanchez, undergraduate nutrition and dietetics major, the lead author of the study and a student research assistant in the Sleep and Health Research Program, adds, “Sleep is increasingly recognized as an important factor in health, alongside nutrition. This study shows how sleep and eating patterns are linked and work together to promote health.”
The research was presented at the SLEEP 2018 annual meeting in June.