HEALTHY LIVING
06/26/2013 08:32 am ET

Sleep-Deprived Teens Skimp On Produce, Eat More Unhealthy Food: Study

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Making sure your teen gets enough sleep could make the difference in whether he or she chooses the salad over pizza at lunch.

Research presented at the annual SLEEP 2013 conference shows that sleep-deprived teens eat less healthfully than their more well-rested counterparts.

And "not only do sleepy teens on average eat more food that's bad for them, they also eat less food that is good for them," study researcher Lauren Hale, Ph.D., an associate professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, said in a statement. "While we already know that sleep duration is associated with a range of health consequences, this study speaks to some of the mechanisms, i.e., nutrition and decision making, through which health outcomes are affected."

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 13,284 teens with an average age of 16 who were part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Eighteen percent of teens slept for fewer than seven hours a night. Researchers found that these sleep-deprived teens were less likely to eat healthy food, like fruits and vegetables, throughout the week, and were more likely to eat fast food at least twice a week, compared with their peers who got more sleep at night.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, most teens need about 9.5 hours of sleep a night, while some need as "little" as 8.5 hours a night. However, only 15 percent of teens reportedly get 8.5 hours of sleep on school nights.

Recently, a study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology showed that sleep deprivation could also make people yearn for bigger portion sizes, suggesting that "sleep deprivation enhances food intake regardless of satiety," the researcher of that study, Pleunie Hogenkamp of Uppsala University, said in a statement.

And just this month, a study presented at the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society showed that sleep deprivation is linked with higher blood levels of a molecule that regulates the feelings of reward that come from eating -- a possible reason for why people seem to be so attracted to food after a bad night's rest.

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