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Study shows sleep-deprived teens eat more

Sat, Feb 12th, 2011
Posted in Health & Wellness

According to a recent study in the journal Sleep, teens who sleep less than eight hours a night are more likely to eat a high-fat diet that puts them at risk for obesity and other health problems.

The study found that sleep-deprived teens tend to consume 2.2 percent more calories from fat and ate more snacks than those who slept eight hours or more a night. They also ate more calories.

"Parents are not doing their children any favors by allowing late bed times, especially more than one night in a row," comments Dr. Berg, Gundersen Lutheran physician. "Parents need to establish a set time of when the computer and television need to be turned off. Teens can get absorbed in a show or in instant messaging and lose track of time. If you go to bed earlier than your teens, set an alarm for them, so they know when they need to turn off their electronics." Dr. Berg also suggests setting aside 30 minutes before bed for reading as well.

Studies have shown a craving for fatty foods among participants who got less than eight to nine hours of sleep. Sleep experts say that sleep-deprived teens may suffer from metabolic disturbances that have been linked to obesity and insulin resistance. Metabolism is the body's process for turning calories into energy.

"Staying up later means teens have more opportunities to eat," says Dr. Berg. "If teens, or anyone for that matter, need to stay up later for whatever reason and have a craving to eat something, try eating lightly buttered popcorn. It is a good source of fiber, filling and socially accepted."

The study measured the hours slept of 240 teens for five to seven consecutive weekdays. The teens wore wrist meters measuring their movements to determine wakefulness and sleep. They were interviewed twice within 24 hours of eating about what foods they ate, the amount they ate, and when and where. Only 34 percent of the participants slept eight hours or more.

"When we think about sleep-deprived teens, we tend to worry about falling asleep while driving or in class, this study also shows the health consequences for teens, too," explains Dr. Berg. "You cannot 'catch up' on sleep."

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